- Chris Cook, Capiche
Get Sharpe: Interview with Jeff Sharpe, Energy Solutions & Stracker Solar
Jeff Sharpe is a seasoned entrepreneurial engineer versed in innovative projects ranging from carbon-neutral goat farm/cheese operations and net-zero school renovations to sustainable-energy homes. His hallmarks include construction-conscious designs, effective project management and creative problem resolution. He holds degrees in both physics and mechanical engineering, is a licensed professional engineer in more than 30 states and provinces and is a practicing licensed CCB contractor in Oregon. DEI’s Brian Dunagan has been Jeff’s go-to structural engineer since they started working together in 2016, with Jeff calling Brian “the most trusted structural engineer in the country for elevated (solar) tracking systems.” When we met up with Jeff, he had just launched a funding initiative for securing private investments for the expansion of Stracker Solar, the company he founded in 2017 to develop, promote and market the Stracker platform, a state-of-the-art elevated solar energy collection system. Here’s our Q&A. Q: Would you briefly explain what Sharpe Energy Solutions (SES) is best known for? A: As a result of focusing all company resources and operations in the past 5 years to develop Stracker projects, by now SES is best known for these most efficient and innovative elevated PV [photovoltaic] trackers. We have been helping businesses, schools and residential customers in the region to reach their energy goals—to generate their own electricity, save money and become net zero. I hope that we are also known for our great employees, associates and business partners like DEI who have been playing an instrumental role in bringing big ideas to life. And maybe also for our energy and enthusiasm.
Stracker Installation at TC Chevy in Ashland, OR
Q: What sets your approach apart from that of other solar companies? A: Working for collaboration instead of competition. Which, you may think, is easy to say when our product has no real direct competition in terms of power production and site compatibility. Yet, we truly believe that only with shared purpose and resolve are we going to be able to make this incredible transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. That’s why involving local PV installers, electricians and construction companies into our projects is our preferred way of doing business. Q: How does this mission/vision speak to you personally? A: Loud and clear. There is still time for us to do a lot at the community level to secure our energy systems for the coming travails. Between wildfires and an aging transmission grid, we can be sure that more extended electrical blackouts are in our future, but by building systems for resilience now we will be able to sustainably keep the essential systems in our cities and homes up and running. Q: I noticed on your company website that you work with schools, communities and Native American tribes. What are typical types of work you do for each? A: In previous years SES, under contracts with state agencies, has provided energy audits, designs and project management services for schools the region and secured 100% grants through Oregon Senate Bill 1149, California Clean Energy Jobs Act – Prop 39 and others for their energy projects. We also provided the most comprehensive energy studies ever performed for the Ashland School District. Under contract with the Energy Trust of Oregon, we provided renewable energy analyses and reports for the Klamath Tribes and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. In addition, we have provided numerous pro bono energy production/sustainability project analyses and reports for the City of Ashland, Mt. Ashland and Southern Oregon University over the last 10 years. Q: Who are your partners in making your projects succeed and what roles do they play? A: Foremost are our employees, associates and clients. While developing the Stracker models and working on installation projects, DEI has played a valuable role in providing us with dependable structural and soils engineering. Oak Street Tank & Steel has become family as they have helped with fabrication, testing and optimization. Also, area subcontractors, including almost all the local solar installers and electricians, have helped make Strackers blossom across the region. Q: What projects would people in the southern Oregon/northern California area be familiar with? Can you tell us a little about what makes each of them special? A: Here are a few of the recent projects people may be familiar with:
On the Stracker front: The installations at ScienceWorks, Ashland Family Dentistry, Oak Street Tank & Steel and at a private residence near the end of Glendower Street, Ashland.
Other often-viewed Solar Tracker projects include the one powering Grenada Elementary, CA, visible from I-5.
Neighbors in Bonanza, OR, might be aware of our help renovating their elementary schools’ heating systems from steam boilers to ground-coupled heat pumps.
People near Hammer Loop east of Red Bluff, CA, know us for designing and installing the PV pumps and power systems projects currently powering the area’s homes and orchards after the US Fish & Wildlife’s dam removal project.
Stracker Installation at Ashland Family Dentistry Q: Jeff, good luck with your new investor project! What are your plans to put the raised capital to work for your company? A: The capital is fully for Stracker Solar and will be used to provide new clean-energy jobs for the community, buy equipment for installations and some critical inventory, and to set up a sales/marketing team to further expand the Stracker sales pipeline. DEI: So, I guess we’ll be seeing more of your construction signs around the area—signs that you are working to help our economy and environment, all while providing good employment. That’s fantastic!