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Texas Innovator Fall 2008


Houston powers up with wind

Houston is slashing energy costs by harnessing Texas wind power.

In July 2008, the city began using wind-powered electricity for 25 percent of its municipal power needs. The move, deep in the heart of oil country, will save about $7 million in five years, Houston officials say.

Wind energy provides fuel-source diversity, a long-term hedge on price and renewable credit for the city of Houston, says Issa Dadoush, general services department director.

“It puts the city on the map in terms of sourcing renewables, providing 25 percent of the load annually for the next five years,” he says.

In July 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership named Houston as the No. 1 municipal purchaser of green power nationally.

The city will pay a fixed rate of 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, a price locked down in 2007 and about 21 percent less than the cost of electricity produced from coal or oil. Since wind power is intermittent, backup power will come from conventional sources.

Houston expects to use as much as 1.7 billion kilowatt-hours of this renewable energy during the next five years. The contract does not apply to business or residential electricity use.

For more information, contact Issa Dadoush,

For more on Texas' energy environment, check out the Comptroller’s Energy Report at


Save money, drive clean

Texans whose cars or trucks are more than 10 years old or have failed an emissions test may be eligible for vouchers worth up to $3,500 toward vehicle replacements, thanks to a program by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The AirCheckTexas “Drive a Clean Machine” program allows up to 1.9 million Texas households to receive vouchers to replace their car or truck in an initiative to decrease emissions in areas with high ozone levels.

“The program has been a huge success,” says Donna Huff of TCEQ. “The program’s participants want to do their part in cleaning our air by removing these older, more-polluting vehicles from Texas roads.”

To view a complete list of program rules or to apply for an AirCheckTexas voucher, visit


High-pressure pain relief

Rice University researchers have discovered that by applying intense pressure to cells using a hydraulic press and chemical bath, tissue containing nearly the same properties of naturally occurring cartilage can be generated.

The discovery could bring relief to countless sufferers of maladies ranging from arthritis to heart and kidney disease.

“This would allow us to transplant cartilage into damaged joints before conditions like osteoarthritis can develop,” says Kyriacos Athanasiou, a professor of bioengineering at Rice.

For more information on Rice University’s cartilage regeneration research, visit

Texas InnovatorHEALTH CARE

Obesity drug breaks down fat

A naturally occurring compound found in the human body may revolutionize obesity treatments. Houston-based Halsa Pharmaceuticals Inc. is testing ZAG, an obesity-fighting drug that is free of many of the side effects – such as gastrointestinal distress or increased blood pressure – of other common fat-loss drugs.

The Texas Emerging Technology Fund awarded Halsa $250,000 to aid in the drug’s development.

“About one-third of American adults are obese,” says Phil Speros, Halsa’s CEO. “The dangers of obesity are grave. Obesity makes people unhealthy, it costs them money, and it kills them.”

ZAG could be available to the public within five years, Speros says.

For more information, contact Phil Speros,, (832) 722-0513. The Comptroller talks about obesity's cost in Texas in her Obesity Report at

There are approximately 300 million people in the U.S. 67%, or 200 million are overweight. 50%, or 150 million, are overweight with health risk factors. 33%, or 100 million, are obese. 25% or 75 million have metabolic syndrome. 4%, or 12 million, are morbidly obese. 7%, or 21 million, are diabetic. 18%, or 52 million are hypertensive. Source: Halsa Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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