By Nicholas Sakelaris for Dallas Innovates

Source: DallasInnovates

Christopher Griffin

Christopher Griffin, president of Hover Energy, stands in front of their wind turbine and answers questions from the Innovation Expo attendees at Earth Day Texas.

New innovations in solar, wind and urban farming were highlighted during the seventh annual Earth Day Texas event at Fair Park last weekend.

As part of the E-Capital Innovation Expo, startups, national laboratories, and universities showcased their latest clean technologies.

One company even showed off flooring that can generate electricity just by having people walk on it.

Here are just a few of the exhibits.


Carrollton-based Hover Energy has developed a wind turbine array that can sit on top of a building.

Unlike typical turbines that use large blades on top of a high tower, Hover Energy has developed a compact unit that’s not much bigger than an industrial air conditioner. Wind spins the blades in the center, generating electricity using magnets. The arms on the side orient to get maximum exposure and focus the wind to the center.

The prototype unit can generate 36 kilowatts with 15 mph winds with little vibration or noise, said Taylor Beach, executive vice president of Hover Energy.

“We haven’t seen anything else out there that produces as much energy per square foot as this,” Beach said.

“We haven’t seen anything else out there that produces as much energy per square foot as this.” Taylor Beach

They’re hoping to have it ready for testing on a building by the third quarter and start mass production by the end of the year.

“We’re talking to several different real estate groups,” Beach said.

The wind array could work in conjunction with solar power with the wind blowing 24 hours a day for baseload power and solar providing peak power when the sun shines brightest.

“The final solution is a combination of these products,” Beach said.


TouchLight Innovations is developing flooring that generates electricity with every step. The New York-based startup founded by Swarnav Pujari showed off its 3-D printed prototype that could become a fixture of airports, hotels, and other areas with high foot traffic. The final product will be made of steel.

The tiles move a fraction of an inch when someone steps on them, just enough to activate the piso-electric motor to generate power.

The movement is small enough that it can’t be detected by the people walking on it. TouchLight flooring generates 10 watts per minute per step in heavy traffic.

ToughLight already beta tested it at a sports arena and at a school, where it was at the base of the stairs.

“No one ever noticed. They just thought it was a buildout of the staircase,” said Pujari, who is also the CEO.

The flooring can be installed on top of the existing floor, raising it about 3 inches. It works with all types of flooring tiles. The startup is already in talks with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and other high-traffic areas.

If there’s high enough foot traffic, the piso-electric generating tiles could provide a faster return on investment than wind or solar, Pujari said.


An outbreak of allergies and lactose intolerance led Steve Smith to become an entrepreneur and an advocate for veterans and urban farming.

The U.S. Army veteran found that other servicemen and women were having the same problem. He started researching food that he could eat that wouldn’t trigger digestive problems or allergies. He also became a father, which increased his concern about food quality.

“The more I learned about it, the more I figured out that our food system is broken,” Smith said. “I got rid of anything that wasn’t organic.”

That led him to found F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assisting Returning Military), a Dallas-based startup that combines sustainable farming with recreational therapy for veterans with a traumatic brain disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s more than just a job. It’s a mission.”Steve Smith

They grow vegetables and take care of pigs, sheep, and chickens.

“It provides mission, structure, regimen, purpose, and peer support,” Smith said. “It’s more than just a job. It’s a mission. It just felt good for them to be able to feed their families and their community. Just the gardening and working with the animals is therapeutic.”

F.A.R.M. currently is based in DeSoto, but soon will be relocating to Seagoville. The long-term plan is to establish a farm near the Dallas Farmers Market on Good Latimer Expressway and Taylor Street.

He’s currently helping seven veterans, but the long-term plan is to grow it to 20.

F.A.R.M. offers six-month internships, a four-week workshop, and therapy classes, including yoga and acupuncture.


Dallas-based Skyven Technologies showed off a new use for solar panels — heating and purifying liquids.

The mirror panels reflect the sun onto a pipe conduit that heats up whatever liquid is inside, whether it’s water needs to be purified or chemicals for a manufacturing process.

Skyven basically replaces or supplements the need for fossil fuels to heat up liquids.

The mirrors follow the sun as it moves across the horizon. The conduit magnifies the light to maximize it.

They’re testing the Skyven system at Metroplex Battery in Dallas and will deploy the system at a sustainable house at the University of California at Berkeley.

The system will heat wastewater from the house so it can be reused.