Cypress Creek Renewables, one of the largest utility-scale solar developers in the U.S., on Monday announced it will replace its CEO and several other executives as it looks to recover from recent headwinds that led to substantial layoffs earlier this year.
Sarah Slusser, managing director at Point Reyes Energy Partners, has replaced Matthew McGovern as CEO and board director. Kim Oster and Rebecca Cranna have joined as chief strategy officer and chief operating officer, respectively, on an interim basis.
Slusser, Oster and Cranna all come from Point Reyes Energy Partners, a solar advisory and development company, and worked together previously at independent generator AES Corp.
Another former AES executive, Ned Hall, will replace co-founder Ben Van de Bunt as Cypress Creek's board chair.
In January, GTM exclusively reported that California-based Cypress Creek had issued layoffs impacting roughly 20 percent of its workforce.
The privately owned company has vaulted to the top of the U.S. utility-scale solar rankings since its founding in 2014, but has been forced to cope with state policy changes tied to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act in several states, including its largest market in North Carolina. Those challenges revolved around regulations for compensation and sizing of PURPA projects, which many states have mulled changing as the solar market matured.
Cypress Creek has also pointed to difficulties stemming from the Section 201 tariffs on U.S. solar equipment imports.
“There’s a need at this stage in Cypress Creek’s development to have an executive team that has the depth of experience in the power sector that Kim, Becky and I all bring. If we weren’t on the phone, you’d see gray hair,” Slusser told Greentech Media in an interview.
“We will focus on a more disciplined approach to development, one that’s focused really keenly on value creation. And we will also build off of the talent of Cypress Creek and a lot of the innovation that’s taken place…but with a focus on sustainable, long-term growth.”
Just ahead of its January layoffs, Cypress Creek unloaded 580 megawatts in projects. At the time of the layoffs, the company confirmed to GTM that it had engaged with Barclays to explore potentially offloading other pieces of its operating portfolio. Asked about the progress of a possible portfolio sale on Monday, the company said it does not comment on ongoing transactions.
Cypress Creek deployed 686 megawatts of solar in the U.S. last year, and has deployed a total of 3.7 gigawatts to date, the company says. It was the second-largest utility-scale solar developer in the U.S. in 2018, trailing only Hanwha affiliate 174 Power Global, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
In 2018, Cypress Creek secured a $200 million preferred equity investment from Singapore-based investor Temasek.
In a January interview about the layoffs, then-CEO McGovern said the company would focus on its “core value creation centers” in development; engineering, procurement and construction; and project finance. Slusser said the new team will “be taking a hard look at everything” to make sure the company focuses on its businesses with the most potential for value creation.
McGovern also told GTM early this year that Cypress Creek would refocus on geographies where it sees the most potential for value. Slusser noted Monday that the company will “continue the strong tradition of bringing projects online…across many geographies.”
“We expect to build off that development pipeline and really focus the strategy on the most-value-created projects,” said Slusser.
She added that the company plans to work in competitive markets in addition to the regulated markets, such as North Carolina, where it’s mostly engaged in the past. The company tested that approach with a recent Starbucks deal in Texas.
In addition to showing a new tack for the company, the leadership changes also shift the gender balance in Cypress Creek's upper ranks. Before today, the company’s senior management was made up almost entirely of men, a widespread reality in the solar industry.