Only a few miles down the road from the 30MW Webberville Solar Farm that energizes Austin, there is another groundbreaking solar farm, and this one produces clean energy as well as delicious organic vegetables. Located just thirteen miles east of downtown Austin, Tecolote Farm (tecolotefarm.net), long known as an organic produce pioneer, is now a solar powered business as well.
Out of the front door of their adorable historic home under a giant oak tree Katie and David Pitre emerged. They are the owners of the dream and Tecolote Farm (visit their Facebook page). They are a vibrant, healthy couple dressed in rubber farm boots and jeans. They started working the dirt on their farm 22 years ago and started feeding Austin with certified organic vegetables through their CSA and restaurants. An icon in Central Texas, Tecolote is the longest operating organic CSA in Texas. Local food wasn’t even a movement back when they started farming, and sustainability wasn’t yet a buzzword.
The farm already harvests rainwater to wash vegetables and supply the farm with water. Taking sustainability a step further, last month they became the first CSA in Central Texas to be 100% powered by solar energy. Their solar array spans the entire reach of their barn, supplying all of the power needed for their three walk in coolers. “Our produce is never more than 24 hours old and I use a three-stage cooling system to chill our vegetables to ensure they are the freshest when they are delivered to the customer,” explains David.
Native worked with David and Katie to find an affordable solar solution. Native pulled together the Federal Income Tax Credit, a Department of Agriculture grant, and the Austin Energy’s rebate to create a very affordable solar energy solution. According to David, “This choice was obvious and one I’ve had my sights on for many years. Financially it finally made sense.”
Tecolote farm is a farm of firsts, first CSA in Texas and now the first farm in Austin to be 100% solar powered. The best time to sign up for Tecolote Farm’s CSA is NOW as the spring planting has begun and fresh vegetable boxes are right around the corner.
“Jay embodies the culture we’ve worked so hard to cultivate at NATiVE. He understands that his success is measured by what his customers have to say about him and works very hard to ensure that it’s always positive. Jay also has a great work-life balance that allows him to excel at both.” – Lloyd Lee CEO
Jay Thomas assisted David and Katie with their system, from start to finish. Tecolote Farm was the first local farm in the Austin area to utilize REAP funding for solar.
Tell us a bit about yourself (hobbies, education, born, raised, etc.). I was born and raised in Austin, TX. I attended Westlake High and am a second generation Texas Longhorn. My hobbies include mountain biking, hiking, amateur astronomy and reading about astrophysics and astrobiology. I am NASA’s #1 fan! Although it is too late for me, hopefully my niece (3.5 years old) will accept the bug I’ve planted in her ear and be one of the first astronauts to play golf on Mars.
How did you become a Renewable Energy Consultant? I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s in Sociology. I used this degree to get my foot in the door at a local solar company after taking an entry level Renewable Energy course at Austin Community College. After wearing several hats for several years, I found an affinity for sales and consultation, and now I work for one of the premiere area green builders, NATiVE, Inc.
Why did you become a Renewable Energy Consultant? To allow my professional life to intersect with my desire to do something positive for our planet and it’s people (and animals!)
Why did you choose to work for Native? Everywhere you look, you see builders that are content with the status quo. While that may suit some folks, it won’t suit the future and it won’t allow us all to have the quality of life we desire. In comes NATiVE, a green builder with a purpose, a passion and a track record of helping it’s clients create beautiful spaces in which to live, while at the same time protecting the environment (and their bank accounts!).
What do you most enjoy about your job? I love that I get to sell a product that is good for my clients, in more than one way. We’re not selling boats here, we’re selling something that creates electricity out of thin air. What’s cooler than that?
What is your favorite place on earth? The South Island of New Zealand.
What advice do you have for people who would like to power their homes or businesses with solar? Do it now. Don’t “wait for the technology to improve”. It’s already better than your existing relationship with your utility, and provides the ability to create equity and take the power back from the utility, literally.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? The rainforests of Borneo.
Anywhere in the solar system? That would be Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and one of three places with the highest chance of harboring complex life (aside from Earth, of course!). Scientists think there is a moon-wide ocean underneath it’s icy crust, and I’d give just about anything to drill a hole down there and be the first person to take a peek at what may lurk beneath.