Employee Spotlight: Jason Carr Talks Community Solar and Frequently Asked Questions
June 1, 2016
CCR Community Relations Director Discusses Community Solar Development
There can no longer be any doubt about the fact that our nation’s energy model is changing. Technological advancements in renewables and storage are rising up to take on the environmental, social and political challenges brought about by decades of fossil fuel consumption, and we are seeing new pathways forward that rely on community solar initiatives, distributed generation, micro-grids, wind and sun. And though this transition is necessary and inevitable, there are still questions, concerns and fears surrounding what a new energy model will mean for individuals, businesses and communities nationwide.
As a small utility scale solar farm developer, Cypress Creek is on the frontlines of this change, and we know that transparency, communication and education are the keys to being good neighbors to the communities in which we place our developments. Because of this, we put a great deal of importance on our community relations team, which is headed by community relations director, Jason Carr.
We’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Jason. In the following interview, he explains a little bit about himself and his role at Cypress Creek.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: My background is in economic development. My prior experience has included bringing jobs to Oregon by encouraging companies including Facebook and Apple to open up data centers in the state. I enjoy working with people and helping communities thrive economically. I am a lifelong Oregonian. I’ve been married for 17 years. I have a daughter and a son, and I spend most of my free time with my family, attending my kids’ sporting events, camping and enjoying the outdoors.
Q: Tell us about your role at Cypress.
A: Previously, I was community relations manager for Oregon and Montana, but I was recently promoted to community relations director for all states in which we have a presence. In this capacity, I work with the various zoning teams to ensure transparent communications and outreach, along with engaging local governments, media and project development neighbors. At the end of the day, my responsibility is to make sure Cypress Creek is being a good neighbor and a good partner.
Q: In your conversations about community solar projects, what are people most concerned about when evaluating a proposed solar farm?
A: I have been to a number of public meetings regarding our local solar developments in Oregon and Montana and, while every community is different, there are a few concerns that come up again and again.
First, people want to know what the development is going to look like – will it be industrial? Will it be unsightly?
The answer here is that solar panels have a fairly low profile and most of our developments have extensive buffer zones with landscaping that, once mature, pretty much totally obscures the solar farm from outside view.
Second, people are often concerned about the potential for unhealthy byproducts or chemicals in the panels that can be transferred to local water sources, soil and air. People also have questions regarding electromagnetic fields.
We answer these types of questions by explaining that solar farms are zero-emission sites. They neither require nor emit hazardous chemicals to operate. As for the questions regarding EMFs, the short answer is that EMFs naturally occur on Earth and help balance our planet’s atmosphere. Solar projects emit low levels of EMF at the same frequency as household appliances and electrical outlets, and there is no safety hazard. For people seeking more information, Oregon.gov features a useful paper that has more details.
Third, people want to know whether or not a solar farm located near them will impact property values.
The answer here is that the solar farms we have developed thus far had no impact on property values.
Q: How do people feel about a solar farm once it’s built?
A: Once the solar farm has been zoned, approved and developed, and people see the finished product, their concerns are generally mitigated. Because solar farms are so new, and there are so many unknowns for people to grapple with, the process can be a little scary. More often than not, at the end of the day, people find that it adds to, rather than takes away from, their community’s value – if they find it at all – like I said before, we do a great job of hiding our farms from view.
Q: On a more personal level, why do you work for Cypress Creek?
A: There’s two reasons. The first is that I am interested in helping bring about thriving economic development, and I think that solar farm development is an economic stimulator with far-reaching benefits.
Second, I think that it’s important for every community to have a good energy mix. Solar is a clean resource that does not require huge capital investment. Consumers should have choices, and building local solar farms gives consumers another energy choice.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
A: Well, I like people, so the community interaction and the interaction with my co-workers is great. But I also like what an opportunity for learning this job affords me. I’m very interested in economic development and the ways different communities foster it. I’ve had the opportunity now to see our projects pass through a variety of community government processes, and while there are similarities to every situation, our projects are also met with varying concerns and worldviews. My job has given me a well-rounded perspective, which I can then apply and use to solve problems in the future.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Jason and how he is helping Cypress Creek in our quest to be the nation’s leading local solar development company. To learn more about the Cypress Creek Renewables team and our organizational structure, head on over to our Who We Are page next.