GreenStar’s LEDs: an illuminating way to give back to San Antonio

cps energy logoWhen Paul Duran started GreenStar in a small warehouse in Boerne in 2009, he was trying to solve the heating problem created by traditional incandescent lights in the electric refrigerated truck bodies he was manufacturing.

LED lights, he knew, created as much illumination as traditional bulbs, but with the ability to dissipate heat , while using a third of the power.

With traditional bulbs, “you basically heat up a piece of metal so hot it emits light,” said Gabriel Senior, GreenStar’s vice-president of sales and marketing. “With LEDs, you’re exciting electrons, and that emits light. It’s a huge paradigm shift in lighting technology.”

Just five short years after the company began, GreenStar is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba Lighting and Technologies, with its Americas headquarters in San Antonio and selling to municipalities and commercial businesses worldwide — and it’s just recently installed its 50,000th LED light.

Of those, more than 14,000 are now illuminating many of San Antonio’s main thoroughfares, as part of a deal between CPS Energy, GreenStar and the city of San Antonio. The company was one of CPS Energy’s first New Energy Economy partners.

When the upgrade is complete this summer, 25,000 LED streetlights will offer San Antonio drivers brighter, more natural looking and more direct, not to mention longer-lasting illumination of city streets — and use 60 to 70 percent less energy to do so.

Together, the 50,000 lights installed worldwide thus far by GreenStar have saved 10 megawatts of power, according to the company. Annually, that’s 47,000 megawatt hours of power not needed.

LED Lighting-29Since the cleanest energy is that which isn’t used, not generating that 10 MW has avoided spewing 74 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year into the air. That’s the equivalent of getting more than 6,500 cars off the road.

Customers who’ve installed those lights are enjoying the financial benefits, too. GreenStar estimates that together they’ve saved $4 million in energy costs, plus another $2 million in avoided maintenance costs, since GreenStar’s LED lights can last for more than a decade.

LED Lights Greenstar-27And they’re being manufactured right here in San Antonio, employing more than 40 people — almost double the company’s workforce from just a year ago. A giant “We’re Hiring” banner hangs over the entrance to the modular manufacturing site on the city’s far West Side.

“We’re hiring for assembly, warehouse and quality assurance roles on two shifts,” said Tom Wright, vice-president of operations. He said the company manufacturing strategy allows it to quickly and easily increase its production capacity based on customer needs.

Research and development is now headquartered in New Delhi, and employs another 40 or so there.

And while components and parts come from all over the world, GreenStar sources locally whenever it can, said Wright.

“We’ve calculated that about 20-25 percent of what we spend stays right here in San Antonio,” he said, “hundreds and thousands going to other small businesses here each year — and that’s not including payroll.”

The company has made giving back part of its ethos; as part of its deal with CPS Energy, GreenStar agreed to contribute $10 to the University of Texas’ College of Engineering for every light fixture the firm sold to the city.

“This green economy is a new business and we need to teach our kids what it is all about,” Paul Duran told the UTSA publication Giving in the summer of 2012, noting that none of the 14 engineers on his staff at the time were from San Antonio.

The money was used to endow the GreenStar Energy Engineering Professorship in the College of Engineering — the college’s first energy-related endowed professorship.

“It’s just another example of how the new energy economy is coming into play here in San Antonio,” said Wright. “GreenStar is extremely proud of its economic and environmental contributions to not only San Antonio, but the world thus far — and is looking forward to continued growth and a very bright future.”

This story originally appeared in Energized, CPS Energy’s blog.

CPS Energy and San Antonio EDF Honored for “Visionary” New Energy Economy Initiative

cps energy logoSAEDF_logoCPS Energy and the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) received a Silver Excellence in Economic Development award for the energy provider’s New Energy Economy initiative, an approach to clean energy that leverages CPS Energy’s buying power to create jobs, economic development and educational investment in San Antonio.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) presented the award at its annual conference in Philadelphia on October 8, calling the initiative “visionary”. IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. The non-profit organization applauded CPS Energy’s commitment to protect the environment by diversifying its generation portfolio to include 20 percent renewable energy, investing in clean technologies and creating economic development opportunities in San Antonio.

“The Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize CPS Energy and San Antonio Economic Development Foundation as being two of the leading organizations in the industry for innovation, creativity and successful strategies,” said IEDC chair Paul Krutko. “These awards are meant to honor the organizations and individuals who are dedicated to making a positive change in their communities.”

“When we started the New Energy Economy, we knew it was the right thing to do for the community. It drives economic development and creates job opportunities for our customers,” said Shawn Eddy, senior director of enterprise facilities and asset management. “As for education, we have always been on the leading edge of mentoring programs and support for local schools. With one-third of our employees eligible for retirement within five years, it is good business sense to invest heavily into science, technology, engineering and math to solidify a pipeline for the next generation of CPS Energy employees.”

CPS Energy launched the New Energy Economy in June 2011 by building partnerships with companies dedicated to turning innovation into economic development. SAEDF assisted in the effort to attract the partners and their suppliers to San Antonio. In two short years, it’s been praised by others as new local headquarters, offices, or plants for seven clean technology companies have either opened or are under construction, including:

  • OCI Solar Power – consortium with three partners (Nexolon, ERCAM, and Kaco) committed to creating 800-plus,      long-term jobs and $1 billion in economic development as part of a 400 megawatt solar energy deal; headquarters opened in downtown San Antonio in      Spring 2013.
    • Nexolon America – constructing solar panel manufacturing plant in south San Antonio; headquarters opened in Spring 2013; nominated for designation as a State Enterprise Project.
    • ERCAM Trackers – manufacturing dual-axis trackers for solar facilities; opened office near east San Antonio in 2013.
    • Kaco New Energy – manufacturing inverters for solar facilities; opened office near east San Antonio in 2013.
  • GreenStar LED – opened LED manufacturing plant in northwest San Antonio in 2012; created nearly 40 jobs.
  • Consert – opened local office in northeast San Antonio in 2012; created nearly 70 local and out-of-area jobs.
  • Silver Spring Networks – opening local office in San Antonio in late 2013; committed to creating 40 jobs.

The New Energy Economy will spur the creation of more than 1,000 jobs by 2018, with roughly 250 jobs already in existence, and pour millions of dollars into local education. Several educational institutions or groups have already received a total of more than one million dollars.

For more information about the initiative, visit

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally owned natural gas and electric company, providing service to 741,000 electric and 331,000 natural gas customers in the Greater San Antonio area. The company offers the lowest rates among the top 10 largest U.S. cities, while ranking number one in wind-energy capacity among municipally owned energy systems and number one in Texas for solar generation. For more information, visit