Community Solar, DER, Utility Integration

Houston Mayor selects developer for 70-MW urban solar array in revitalization plan

Last week, Houston, TX Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Sunnyside Energy, led by developer Dori Wolfe of Wolfe Energy LLC, has won a competition to be considered to repurpose a 240-acre former landfill in Sunnyside. Subject to meeting certain terms and conditions, the team will construct one of the largest urban solar farms in Texas., if not the largest.

In 2017, Mayor Turner joined C40 Reinventing Cities – a global competition for innovative carbon-free and resilient urban projects. Together with 13 other cities across the globe, underutilized parcels of land were identified for redevelopment. Through this competition, the Sunnyside Energy team of engineers, architects, neighborhood groups, and artists have created a vision to transform the unmaintained closed landfill into a beacon of sustainability and resiliency.

The preliminary design calls for the development of a 70-MW ballasted solar array that would:

  • Generate enough electricity to supply about 12,000 homes
  • Prevent potential future environmental hazards posed by the landfill
  • Provide power discounts for low-income residents in the neighborhood
  • Train and employ local labor
  • Store and filter stormwater on the tract to help reduce flooding
  • Include educational attributes at the restored site

Sunnyside Energy is a partnership among EDF Renewables, MP2-Shell, and Wolfe Energy. Sunnyside Energy will supply electricity to the Houston-area power grid through MP2-Shell and CenterPoint, meaning the solar-generated power would be distributed across the metropolitan region.

“It is fitting that Sunnyside would be home to one of the largest urban solar farms in Texas,” Mayor Turner said. “The project proposes to not only revitalize an underutilized piece of property that has been an eyesore to the community for years, but could also make Sunnyside a more complete, sustainable and resilient community.”

“Reinventing the landfill into a solar farm will help bring much-needed economic development to the community and makes Sunnyside part of the international energy transition to using ‘clean,’ renewable energy sources, reducing pollution and limiting climate change in the process,” the mayor added.

“Reinventing Cities recognizes low-carbon solutions in cities around the world and makes it possible for these innovative ideas to become reality. It is evident why Houston’s Sunnyside Energy project is one of the world’s best,” said David Miller, Director of International Diplomacy and the Regional Director of North America at C40 Cities. “Transforming a former landfill into a site that will be carbon-positive by its fifth year illustrates how taking bold action gets us closer to achieving the future we want.”

Sunnyside solar will not only bring jobs to the area, but also help teach future generations of Houstonians about renewable energy. Houston Renewable Energy will provide solar installation training at the neighboring Sunnyside Community Center. Qualifying graduates of the training program will have an advantage in securing a job during the construction of the 70 MW solar farm, designed and constructed by EDF-Renewables.

Next steps will be for the City of Houston and Wolfe Energy LLC. to complete the financial and environmental feasibility, finalize the design plan with community input and negotiate contract lease terms for use of the land. The project is estimated to begin in 2021.


Solar project development is a topic discussed at POWERGEN International, which takes place in New Orleans, November 19-21, 2019. Register to attend!