Listen: Silicon Ranch Radio Ep. 17 – Built to Last, Celebrating 10 Years For Our Pulaski Solar Park

From that moment the first spade of dirt is turned, how do solar plants come to life and prosper? What does it feel like to be a part of this type of project at the ground-breaking stage? Silicon Ranch has created a complex and thoughtful process to ensure that our solar projects are well-designed and built to last—while delivering benefits on multiple fronts, including community focused economic development and job creation, in addition to providing clean, reliable, cost-effective solar power.

In our seventeenth episode of Silicon Ranch Radio, Jim Bausell welcomes back Silicon Ranch’s Senior Vice President of Technology and Asset Management, Nick de Vries, and retired Director of Construction and Safety, Jeff Lee. Together, they take a walk back ten years ago to the birth and construction of Silicon Ranch’s first utility-scale solar power plant, the 1.4 MW Pulaski Solar Park.

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Ryan Edwards

Director, Project Finance at Silicon Ranch

“You see the results at the end of the day, that a veteran that came to a company is able to really grow within that role and accrue more responsibility offload from their manager, help train other folks on their team – that pure leadership piece that is extremely valuable for military folks because they had to do it the whole time with their fellow officers or their fellow enlisted.

And that’s where you really get that synergy just by entrusting veterans to really come onto a team and embrace the culture, but also offer some unique perspective. They may not have the years of experience, but the solar industry is constantly evolving, right? So, years of experience could potentially lead you down a rabbit hole in a different direction from where the actual path of solar is going to be in the next five years. You bring in some unique perspectives, somebody that’s not afraid to speak up, but is tactful about it, then you really can have some good discussion on direction down the road…

I think that adaptability kind of lends itself to adversity. Veterans tend to see challenges as something they need to overcome, not as something that shuns them away from getting to the desired solution. I’m not saying that this is unique to the military, but I would say that the majority of folks in the military will definitely look at a challenge and say, this is something that we as a team shall overcome.”

Byron W. Smith

Managing Director, Mountain Group Partners

Byron is a Managing Director of Mountain Group Partners, an investment firm dedicated to investing in and actively guiding transformational businesses in the Life Sciences and Technology sectors. Founded in 2002, Mountain Group Partners principals have invested in more than 30 seed and early stage companies in these sectors. Within technology, Mountain Group Partners’ investments focus on Business Services and Consumer & Healthcare, targeting those ideas with quantifiable development risk and a rapid path to market.

Byron has also taught entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and been an active angel and venture capital investor.

Jeff Mouland

Managing Director and Head of Global Infrastructure Investments

Jeff leads the TDAM Infrastructure Team and is responsible for investment strategy, asset sourcing and execution, and oversight of acquired assets. He was previously part of the Infrastructure Investments Team at Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments, with multi-sector responsibility for global deal sourcing and execution and developing emerging markets investment strategy for equity investing and project financing within the infrastructure and energy sector. Jeff received his B.Eng in Civil Engineering from Memorial University and an MBA in Finance from McGill University.

Matt Kisber

Chairman of the Board

Matt is a co-founder of Silicon Ranch and served as CEO of the company until becoming Chairman in July 2019. As Chairman, Matt works closely with the company’s executive leadership to set and implement its ambitious growth strategy. Under his leadership, Silicon Ranch has from an idea to become one of the top solar companies in America, with a reputation as a pioneering, innovative, and principled industry leader. Matt brings a unique background to Silicon Ranch having been a business owner and having served eight years as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic Development. He has also worked with industry leaders from across the U.S. and around the globe to bring investments and jobs to Tennessee. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Matt served 10 terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Pradeep Killamsetty

Managing Director, Power & Infrastructure Investment Group at John Hancock Financial Services

Mr. Killamsetty is a Managing Director in Manulife’s infrastructure investment group. He joined John Hancock / Manulife in 2012 and is responsible for origination, execution and asset management of investments in various infrastructure sectors. Over the last ten years with John Hancock, Pradeep has led investments in infrastructure equity and public/ private/ project finance debt of over $5 billion. Pradeep has worked in the infrastructure sector since 2006, as an investor, developer, and a financial advisor. After graduating from business school in 2006, he joined Credit Suisse’s power & utilities investment banking group. At Credit Suisse, he was involved in M&A advisory and financing assignments for various power sector clients. Prior to joining John Hancock, he was at Competitive Power Ventures where he helped develop and finance about 1,000MW of renewable energy and gas fired power projects. Pradeep holds an MBA from University of North Carolina and an M.S in Mechanical Engineering from University of Alabama.

Philip Bredesen

Founding Chairman

Philip Bredesen served as Tennessee’s Governor from 2003 until 2011 and Mayor of Nashville from 1991 until 1999. He is known for his bipartisan approach to problem-solving and his careful fiscal management. Among those who have served in senior elected positions, Governor Bredesen has a unique depth of healthcare experience in both the private and public sectors.

Prior to entering public service, Bredesen worked in the healthcare industry. Between research trips to the public library, he drafted a business plan at his kitchen table that led to the creation of HealthAmerica Corp. in 1980, a Nashville-based healthcare management company. The company eventually grew to more than 6,000 employees and was traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The company was sold in 1986. Additionally, Gov. Bredesen is considered a serial entrepreneur, having helped start and mentor several successful companies, many of which subsequently became publicly traded on various stock exchanges.

Laura Zapata

Clearloop CEO & Founder

Laura Zapata is the CEO and co-founder of Clearloop, a Nashville-based startup that helps companies of all sizes—from established companies like Intuit to innovative startups like Rivian—cut their carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy in the United States. Zapata made a career in crisis communications and reputation management having worked in Congress, political campaigns, and Uber. She’s now helping companies reach their net-zero and other climate goals with tangible climate action that ensures that the environmental, health, and economic benefits of new solar projects reach American communities getting left behind. Zapata is a strong believer that solar can do more if we’re intentional about the communities where we invest and is eager to tap into the economic power of more companies as they seek to tackle their carbon footprint and strive for an equitable clean energy transition. Zapata immigrated from Colombia, was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

Steve Wozniak

Vice President, Engineering

Jen Randolph

Vice President, Human Resources

Jen is responsible for leading our HR function. People are our biggest asset at Silicon Ranch and the people strategies she is creating is helping grow and sustain our team. Jen joined Silicon Ranch with 22 years of HR experience in various industries, most recently in manufacturing with Bridgestone.

Amanda Nichols

Senior Legal Counsel

Amanda counsels Silicon Ranch’s business development, finance, and executive teams, where she supports the negotiation and management of significant transactions and execution of Silicon Ranch’s strategic plans. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Amanda practiced in a large regional law firm advising clients in M&A, corporate finance, and project finance transactions across an array of industries.

Morgan Day

Vice President, Projects

As Vice President of Projects, Morgan is responsible to oversee and execute the day-to-day operations of the LPC (Local Power Companies) and Clearloop portfolio of projects. Responsibilities include planning for projects, estimating, deploying and managing resources including labor, equipment, and subcontractors, and confirming proper close out of projects including ensuring the projects are achieving maximum resource efficiency and effectiveness. Morgan has more than 27 years’ experience with a proven track record of safe, high-quality project execution on time and under budget. His experience spans the power industry from gas turbines to coal fired boiler units and has been primarily focused in renewable energy and solar projects since 2017.

Kati Cook, CPA

Vice President, Controller

Jennifer Cain

Vice President, Projects

Jennifer Cain has been at Silicon Ranch for 6 years. She has worked leading the project management group that is responsible for the construction of utility scale solar facilities. Jennifer spent the beginning of her career working in utility consulting, primarily in the areas of transmission and distribution design. She is a Licensed Professional Engineer in multiple states, including her home state of Tennessee. Jennifer has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Technological University and an M.E. in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Construction Management from Vanderbilt University.

Matt Brown

Vice President, Business Development

Matt serves as Vice President, Business Development for Silicon Ranch and has been with the company for nearly 9 years. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Matt worked in various management capacities at TVA both in renewable energy program management and economic development. Matt and his team are responsible for developing community and utility solutions for distributed and utility scale solar projects across multiple geographies in the Southeast, developing win-win-win solutions for all partners.

Luke Wilkinson

Senior Vice President, Project Development

Luke manages the Project Development team at Silicon Ranch. His team is responsible for identifying greenfield assets, negotiating land agreements, community and economic development, permitting, and de-risking assets prior to handing off the projects to the engineering and construction teams. Luke ensures his team keeps projects on schedule and budget through the development lifecycle.

Tyler Whitmore

Senior Vice President, Process Improvement

Tyler works with the Executive Team and other members of the organization to develop and implement processes to support and streamline several of the Company’s initiatives, as well as addresses ad-hoc requests for the Executive Team during rotational assignments. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Tyler worked at Mountain Group Partners, a venture capital firm where he served as Vice President and either in board or visitor roles for multiple portfolio companies, and successfully executed on over 150 financings and transactions across more than 45 different companies. Before starting at Mountain Group Partners, Tyler worked as an Investment Banker at Sagent Advisors (now DC Advisory) in the Automotive and Industrial vertical groups. Tyler graduated Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University in 2010 with a BS in Engineering Science and a minor in Financial Economics.

Nick de Vries

Senior Vice President, Technology and Asset Management

Nick is responsible for managing all aspects of the company’s operating portfolio, as well as technology decisions for new projects. Nick has more than 20 years of diverse renewable energy, semiconductor, and military experience that inform his current work, including executive positions at SolarCity, Phoenix Solar, and Applied Materials.

Nick’s renewable energy industry expertise spans module and cell manufacturing, photovoltaic project design and operation, auxiliary grid services, as well as the prediction and demonstration of the energy harvest of novel PV technologies. He has also worked on manufacturing amorphous silicon modules, and on process machine control of cell splitting and cascading cell bonding processes with heterojunction crystalline cells. Silicon Ranch owns—and Nick now operates—projects that he himself designed nearly a decade ago, including the first transmission interconnected PV plant in the Southeast. Nick holds patents in both PV module manufacturing and design.

While at Applied Materials, he advanced the use of statistical process control to enhance the reliability of production equipment. He has led the commissioning of process equipment at Intel semiconductor factories in both the U.S. and Europe, and entire solar cell factories in India, Germany, Spain, and China.

Nick served his country on active duty as an Infantry Captain in the United States Army, with tours in Kuwait and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University.

Nick is a regular speaker at industry events and has authored several articles. His current passions are the use of predictive analytics to improve performance of solar power plants and the integration of solar farms with regenerative agriculture practices—mostly with sheep and cattle. Hear him talk about it about it on NPR.

Paul Russell

Senior Vice President, Project Delivery

Paul Russell oversees the procurement department at Silicon Ranch Corporation, a fully integrated provider of customized renewable energy, carbon and battery storage solutions. During his nearly six years at Silicon Ranch, Paul has worn many hats and been instrumental in Silicon Ranch’s growth during this period. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Paul worked as in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 energy company and an international law firm in Houston, Texas. Before attending law school, Paul taught high school special education in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America.

John Marcarelli

Senior Vice President, Business Development

John leads the business development and origination efforts for Silicon Ranch and the expansion of utility-scale power plants, storage, and value-added energy services into new geographies. The origination team works electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, and commercial clients to achieve their economic and sustainability goals through cost-effective energy solutions. John has worked in the renewable energy industry for over two decades, covering all aspects of the value chain, from small-scale, off-grid power systems to heading up US origination for a global distribution company. John joined Silicon Ranch in 2015 following several years with the global engineering procurement and construction (EPC) firm that built Silicon Ranch’s early projects.

Gaurab Hazarika

Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Initiatives

Roger Baele

Senior Vice President, Engineering and Constructions

Todd Aquino

Senior Vice President, Energy Delivery

As Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery, Todd’s primary responsibility is to oversees silicon Ranches Utility Planning, Interconnection, Substation Engineering and Development Engineering teams. Todd has provided quality leadership and electrical designs for electric utility, industrial and other clients for over 31 years. His leadership role encompasses directing groups of multi-disciplined engineers and designers in support of engineering and construction projects. His design work includes electrical renewable integration, energy storage, substation physical layout, equipment selection, bus design, grounding design, panel wiring, and control house design. He has field experience installing and maintaining large scale battery, inverters, and flywheel systems for industrial clients.

Andrew Katz

Executive Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Development

Andrew works directly with the Executive Team to lead the development and implementation of the Company’s corporate strategic plan thereby enhancing the analysis of and response to market conditions, and ensuring proactive monitoring and identification of sources of capital to meet outstanding and planned commitments. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Andrew served as a VP in Morgan Stanley’s Global Power & Utilities practice within the Investment Banking Division where he played a lead role in Silicon Ranch’s 2020 equity raise. Andrew earned a BA in Economics from Rollins College in 2009 and an MBA from The Yale School of Management in 2016.

Richard Johnson

General Counsel

Richard is responsible for managing all legal functions for Silicon Ranch Corporation and its solar energy projects, including corporate governance matters, regulatory matters, financing and development transactions, construction and procurement, acquisitions, and project management affairs. Before joining Silicon Ranch, Richard was an attorney in the corporate transactional group at Venable LLP in Washington, DC, where he represented clients in connection with M&A and financing transactions as well as general corporate governance matters.

Boris Schubert

Chief Development Officer

Boris Schubert has been driving the energy transition for more than 20 years with a focus on global renewable power development. As Silicon Ranch’s Chief Development Officer and Chairman of Clearloop, Boris is charged with leading the future growth of Silicon Ranch by expanding its project inventory into new markets and use cases across the U.S. His role helps bridge together the unique offerings of Silicon Ranch’s carbon solutions provider Clearloop and its agrivolatics solution Regenerative Energy to meet growing customer climate ambitions and deliver tangible environmental, social, and economic impact for customers and local communities. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Boris served as General Manager of Renewable Power Development at Shell, globally leading a push to provide cleaner energy solutions.

Michael Payne, CPA

Chief Financial Officer

Michael is responsible for managing all aspects of Silicon Ranch Corporation’s finance and accounting functions. Michael oversees the company’s internal and external financial reporting, regulatory and reporting compliance, and accounting operations. Michael brings over 20 years of financial reporting and accounting experience in a wide variety of industries for both public and private companies. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch, Michael worked on the corporate finance team of Asurion and previously worked for Ernst & Young in Nashville and Brussels, Belgium.

Matt Beasley

Chief Commercial Officer

As Chief Commercial Officer, Matt manages the interface between Silicon Ranch and external stakeholders, including customers, local communities, and the broader industry, with additional focus on business development and corporate strategy. Matt is also a member of the Company’s Board of Directors. Since Matt joined the team in early 2015, Silicon Ranch has grown from an early-stage startup to become one of the largest and fastest-growing independent power producers in the country.

Matt brings more than twenty years of global communications expertise, business development leadership, and entrepreneurial experience to the company’s executive leadership team. Prior to joining Silicon Ranch in 2015, Matt held assignments in New York, Tokyo, and London to develop and implement marketing strategies for large multinational clients. He later led business development efforts across a range of strategic initiatives for one of the country’s premier infrastructure firms. From late 2015 to early 2019, Matt served as President of the Tennessee state chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA).

Matt graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned his MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Erin Hanratty

Erin Hanratty

Project Manager II at Silicon Ranch

“Ryan, you mentioned the entrusting to other people – it was kind of wired within all of us while we were in the military. You had to learn how to trust the people you’re with, because you were working so closely on teams and with teams. At the end of the day, teamwork was the hallmark of success. So that’s just instilled in us to – not to automatically just trust everyone, but to learn how to cultivate that trust. Because at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to make an organization successful and what you really need for any sort of team to be successful. Especially, like we said, in this high-pace, changing environment…

I think it’s extremely important to be pulling in vets, not just at Silicon Ranch, but to the whole energy industry, because the soft skills and the adaptability are really key to the person doing well in that kind of volatile, robust industry. Those skill sets will help grow the industry through these volatile and robust times.

It’s been really refreshing also to see at Silicon Ranch that we’re not just pulling in from one branch. There hasn’t been one cliche or cookie-cutter pathway of the same community from the military where we’re recruiting from. It’s all across the board. We have several Navy, we have a bunch of Army, we have some Air Force. So that’s also a key thing to remember in the recruitment of vets – it’s such a wide spectrum of experiences that can be capitalized on, and can contribute from different branches and communities in the military. So that’s been really cool to see here at Silicon Ranch as well.”

Reagan Farr

President & Chief Executive Officer

As Co-Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Silicon Ranch, Reagan is responsible for ongoing operations and execution of the company’s strategic growth plan. Under his leadership, Silicon Ranch has grown from an idea to become one of the largest independent power producers in the United States, while successfully commissioning every project the company has contracted since it began operations in 2011. From developing the initial ambitious plan for Silicon Ranch to growing a company that has earned a global reputation as one of the premier solar energy providers in the industry, Reagan has been instrumental to the company’s growth. Reagan also serves on Silicon Ranch’s Board of Directors.

Reagan grew up in Baton Rouge, LA. He graduated from Louisiana State University in 1993 and from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1998 with a law degree. He worked for both KPMG and Ernst & Young in the area of state and local taxes from 1998 until 2003, when he joined the Bredesen administration as Deputy Commissioner of Revenue. He became Commissioner of Revenue in 2006, and when Bredesen left office in 2011 joined with him and Matt Kisber in forming Silicon Ranch.