The TOP Executive Team shares a vision for their growing team in the evolving renewables market
With a year under its belt, Triple Oak Power (TOP) is primed to pursue its five-gigawatt pipeline goal. As the newest member of the TOP team, I have been excited to put my liberal arts degree, previous experience in energy consulting, and passion for sustainability into action with the Triple Oak mission. I sat down with the executive team to hear how TOP has harnessed its strategy of innovation and its vision for onshore wind to make its mark in wind development and in the energy transition at large.
Such was the goal of Jesse Gronner and Kenneth Labeja when they founded the organization in August 2020. “The renewable energy industry isn’t a niche industry anymore,” explained Chief Executive Officer Jesse Gronner. “We are the energy industry. TOP isn’t here to prove a new gadget, but instead to be creative and innovative in best-in-class development. There is demand for onshore wind projects, and we are building a team who can make it happen.”
Triple Oak has doubled its team during its first year, with each new team member contributing unique and deep expertise to lead a distinct component of TOP’s strategy. In building the TOP team, Labeja, Chief Financial Officer, identified three critical pillars: “trustworthiness, a sense of strong morals, and a keen ability to make good decisions. Our goal is to develop best-in-class assets across the country.” Such a carefully crafted team is critical as TOP builds its identity as a platform for the next generation of renewable energy professionals.
The energy transition is changing the world at a rapid pace, steadily increasing demand for sustainable production and consumption habits. Those changes imply both opportunities and challenges. “Keeping abreast of these changes takes an entrepreneurial spirit and a value-add mentality,” explained Chief Operating Officer Ryan Leonard. While the industry grows quickly, wind remains a variable resource, posing an inherent challenge. TOP’s approach includes a nimble team who can leverage a diversity of market structures, methodologies in forecasting, and innovations in storage technologies. Also integral to the entrepreneurial TOP in-house team are the close partnerships with service providers, whose leadership and expertise are critical to the pursuit of TOP’s development thesis. “Innovation is going to win the day,” said Leonard.
In still other challenges, federal policy influences the renewable development sector’s financial metrics. The sector annually awaits news of expected changes to tax credits, and is caught in limbo between its identities as a leading-edge R&D technology and as a full scale, multibillion-dollar industry.
TOP’s response to these uncertainties is to operate with a culture of open-mindedness and transparency. “In any industry, there are challenges and risks. The dream across our industry is for all energy sources to compete on a level playing field,” explained Gronner. “In the meantime, our job is to create room for dialogue, and to contribute our strong track record in onshore wind to dispel rumors and build a base of understanding in those communities that can realize its benefits.”
Karen Jones, General Counsel, explained that “we’re part of an industry that is vulnerable to the volatile political climate. But we’re also part of a moment where growing numbers of people have learned to prioritize sustainable practices and metrics on their own. We’re learning to hold one another accountable, despite changing political whims.”
“Doing business in a clean way is better than doing it in a not clean way,” added Labeja. This moment in sustainability should not be a fleeting one, limited by ESG reports or the politicization of renewables. Energy is converging with the rest of the economy and benefits from an influx of fresh talent as recent graduates flock to the industry. At the same moment, says Jones, commercial and industrial consumers are deciding for themselves where to secure their power. TOP is primed to contribute renewable energy to that market.
“We won’t pretend we have the silver bullet,” said Gronner. “What we do have is a talented team of energy veterans, highly knowledgeable service providers, and a unified effort to do something big in the energy industry.”
-Phoebe Bloom, Project Development Analyst