Management coup at 2nd-largest U.S. solar developer

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By their very nature, the public has far less visibility into private companies. Any public statements of regarding financials are purely voluntary, and there is not the threat of shareholder lawsuits to enforce strict representation of relevant information. Until they either go public or file for bankruptcy, you just don’t get any real view into their inner workings.

That being said, something is definitely up at Cypress Creek Renewables, which yesterday announced the biggest sweep of management in the U.S. solar industry at least since Ahmad Chatila stepped down as President and CEO of SunEdison three years ago.

Here’s what we do know: Cypress Creek was heavily involved in developing projects through the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA), and when PURPA implementation was dismantled in several states, volumes deployed under the policy fell sharply.

In late January the company announced that it would sell 580 MW of projects to British infrastructure company Cubico Sustainable Investments, and then laid off an estimated 20% of its workforce.

And now, slightly more than four months later, the entire top management of the company has been replaced.

 

Takeover by Point Reyes/former AES team

Those replaced in the coup represent much of the senior and original leadership of Cypress Creek, which has grown rapidly from its founding in 2014 to become the 2nd-largest developer of utility-scale solar projects in the United States, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

This includes Matt McGovern, who co-founded the company and has served as CEO since its inception, President Michael Cohen, who also also served this entire time, and board chair Ben Van de Bundt.

Incoming CEO Sarah Slusser

Image: Cypress Creek

The team that replaces them comprises Sarah Slusser as CEO and director, Rebecca Cranna as interim chief operating officer and Kim Oster as interim chief strategy officer.  Besides having the distinction of being three women – a rare thing given the male domination of U.S. solar executive positions – the four are notable for their backgrounds.

All four are power industry veterans, and all served for more than a decade together at AES Corporation, and all are partners at development/advisory firm Point Reyes Energy Partners, with Oster serving as founding partner.

There is also a connection to TerraForm Power, the first solar (later solar + wind) yeildco which was created by SunEdison. Incoming Board Chair Ned Hall served on the board of TerraForm Power, and Rebecca Cranna, who as chief financial officer, guided TerraForm Power and Global through the difficult period between the collapse of sponsor SunEdison and the company’s acquisition by Brookfield.

 

Signs of change

Interim Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Cranna

Image: Cypress Creek Renewables

Cranna’s position is particularly notable given her experience at TerraForm Power, and both her appointment and the rapid turnover – with no period of transition between the old and new executives mentioned – are notable. But what direction this change is to take is unclear, and new CEO Slusser suggests that the company plans to keep growing.

“The Cypress Creek team has built a remarkable foundation,” said Slusser. “Becky, Kim and I are excited to lead the company during this next chapter and to build on this strong foundation to achieve top- and bottom-line growth and continue to drive the expansion of solar power across the United States.”

However, it is important to note that both Cranna and Oster have interim roles. Whatever is going on inside the board room and executive offices of Cypress Creek, one can be certain that change is afoot.