As Texas seeks to grab the leadership role in the second energy century, a former CPS Energy power plant on San Antonio's south side is being transformed into a working laboratory for the energy of tomorrow, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Called the EPICenter, for 'Energy, Partnerships, Innovation,' the Center in the former Mission Road Power Station seeks to bring together engineers, visionaries, and innovators of all sorts to do active research and development on the fuels which will power our world in the 21st and into the 22nd Century.
"We are looking at a clean energy incubator, along with existing companies that are co-locating and working together in this great collaboration," says Kimberly Britton, the recently appointed CEO of the EPICenter.
Spurred on by the oil discoveries at Spindletop in East Texas in 1900 and the presence of engineers and scientists already in place to work with the state's booming agriculture and shipping industries, Texas quickly seized the initiative away from early energy leaders Ohio and Pennsylvania and became the world leader in fossil fuel production and development, helping to drive the motor vehicle and industrial revolution worldwide throughout the 20th Century.
Houston became the world capital of energy, and Texas became the thriving hub of innovation, pioneering developments ranging from the Rotary Drill Bit of Howard Hughes Sr. in the 1910s to energy engineer George Mitchell's invention of horizontal fracking in the 2000s, both of which revolutionized the energy industry.
Britton and other partners at EPICenter say the presence of the innovative facility will make sure Texas regains the initiative as new technologies emerge in the 21st Century, and to make sure the lead in energy innovation doesn't slip to Silicon Valley and other tech centers.
Much like Geekdom does with the local tech industry, EPICenter will be an incubator for idea generation, a think tank for innovation, and a workshop to jump start research and development.
EPICenter will also include public spaces, including restaurants and performance spaces. It will become a centerpiece for school field trips to expose students to the exciting new world of energy research and perhaps encourage them to use their talents to build the world of tomorrow's energy. Exhibitions and meetings will take place there, and the historic 1909 power plant will also be a living museum to the state's mythic energy history.
Britton says both young idea-rich visionaries and existing energy companies will be able to collaborate and partner at EPICenter.
"They quickly realize how much they need that mentorship and that relationship," she said. "At the same time the existing companies are very excited about that relationship, because it charges them."
She says there will even be a fabrication shop on site, so innovations can become reality quickly and can be placed into service seamlessly.
EPICenter's mission statement is clear:
"EPIcenter will be the hub for clean energy technology innovation, education and community engagement, and entrepreneurial incubation and ideation."
The plan is for EPICenter to be fully engaged and in operation by 2021.
PHOTO COURTESY: LAKE FLATO, EPICENTER