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Mike Copeland: Solar in Waco; New Starbucks; Baylor's trustworthiness; $1 million bathrooms

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Workers perform routine work on solar panels in 2019 at Cypress Creek Renewables’ 90-acre solar farm in Bruceville-Eddy. A recent report examining 200 Texas cities ranks Bruceville-Eddy second in solar energy production capacity per capita.

Apparently Waco is becoming quite the sun worshipper.

An entity called Environment Texas Research & Policy Center wrote glowingly in a press release on a report it recently published, saying Waco has more than doubled its solar generation capacity in just two years. The city is now home to 5.8 megawatts of solar capacity total, which amounts to about 41 watts per person, an explainer says.

Waco received good reviews in the organization’s eighth edition of “Shining Cities: The Top U.S. Cities for Solar Energy.” The policy center’s executive director, Luke Metzger, said in the press release that “Waco has great capacity for solar power and it’s exciting to see the city take advantage of that.”

The lengthy, detailed analysis ranked Waco 37th among 200 communities statewide in “total solar capacity.” But what really jumped off the page were the rankings of Bruceville-Eddy at second, Marlin at seventh and Robinson at 11th in the category of watts per capita. The smaller cities are punching well above their weight class when the subject turns to solar energy.

Surely not coincidentally, new solar farms have materialized in or near Marlin, Robinson and Bruceville-Eddy in recent years.

Gas prices

Texas has the lowest gas prices in the country, average-wise, according to the AAA Texas auto club. The statewide average on Thursday stood at $3.64 per gallon for regular unleaded, a 14-cent drop from the previous week.

Still, the price remains 80 cents higher than this time last year.

“Texas has the lowest gas price average of any state in the country according to Gasprices.AAA.com,” AAA spokesperson Daniel Armbruster said in a press release. “It remains to be seen how far gasoline prices can actually fall with the busy summer driving season still underway.”

AAA reported reduced demand and increased regional supplies led to falling prices. OPEC has pledged to slightly increase crude oil production, which could lead to further price reductions.

Waco’s average dropped 12 cents over the week, from $3.65 to $3.53.

State of the Nation lunch

Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce will have its annual State of the Nation luncheon Aug. 31 at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club.

It will include presentations by Ron Eidshaug, a vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Rob Engstrom, chief political strategist for the American Bankers Association; and Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, whose 17th Congressional District includes Waco.

Visit wacochamber.com to register for the event.

New Starbucks

A building permit valued at $600,000 has been issued for Starbucks at 18th Street and northbound Interstate 35, according to the local Associated General Contractors of America office. Real estate agent Raynor Campbell brokered the deal bringing Starbucks to that site.

Campbell is staying busy elsewhere, listing with Jim Peevey a 169,000-square-foot speculative building on Exchange Parkway, across from the new Amazon fulfillment center. Airrex USA, which specializes in portable air conditioners, heating equipment and humidifiers, and which has a presence on Woodway Drive, already has secured 40,000 square feet.

Campbell said five or six groups are looking hard at the remaining 129,000 square feet, with spaces ranging from 40,000 to 70,000 square feet most in demand. He said one prospect needs “food grade” accommodations.

The building should prove ready for occupancy by January.

Sales tax holiday

Sunday is the final day of Texas’ sales tax holiday on back-to-school items and clothing. Shoppers can save about $8 on qualified purchases of $100, as the Texas Comptroller’s Office is waiving sales tax collections.

Qualifying items can be bought tax-free online or by telephone, mail, custom order or other means if the item is delivered to and paid for by the customer during the exemption period. Purchases also are allowed if the customer orders and pays for an item, and the seller accepts the order during the exemption period for immediate shipment.

For details about what qualifies, go to TexasTaxHoliday.org.

Baylor’s trustworthiness

Morning Consult, a consulting firm specializing in market research conducted a survey asking about the most trusted universities in the United States. Baylor University finished ninth among 135 doctoral research universities, according to a Baylor press release.

The top 10, in order, were Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, University of Notre Dame, Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Yale University, Harvard University, Baylor University and Princeton University, the press release states.

Baylor was ranked No. 2 among Most Trusted Universities among parents, behind Princeton and ahead of Duke, Notre Dame and Yale.

Findings were based on a survey of 11,050 adults in mid-June, and 1,000 high school students ages 16 to 18.

$1 million bathrooms

Even simple things may cost a lot these days.

Baylor University has secured a building permit valued at $1 million to install restrooms, drinking fountains and hardware at 801 Washington Ave., an off-campus building serving as home to the Baylor School of Social Work and the Baylor Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory.

Meanwhile, Poppa Rollo’s Pizza will shell out $50,000 for a new roof at its 703 N. Valley Mills Drive location. Lotta dough, that is.

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