Climate Impact Profiles: Eric Curry, FastGrid

FastGrid is a solar, energy storage, and renewable energy company involved in the entire clean energy value chain - from project inception, to interconnection, and through the commissioning process. The company works with everyone in the clean energy ecosystem and brings solutions to their clients. Leyline Renewable Capital interviewed FastGrid's Managing Principal & President Eric Curry, someone who, like Leyline, is also familiar with the clean energy project trajectory, but offers a different vantage point - not a lender's perspective, but as an engineering/design firm.

The Leyline Renewable Capital readership may not be familiar with FastGrid and your work. Your company serves as a key component of sorts between renewable energy developers and their projects. Can you talk a little bit about your design and engineering work and how you interface with developers?

FastGrid partners with our clients to support their key objective, whether that is to develop and flip a project, build, sell, own/operate, or hybrid approach. We do much more than provide engineering; we collaborate with our clients to achieve their mission, because they are our mission. FastGrid serves as a key member of their team to provide solutions. This is part of our value proposition - we leverage our collective industry experience, having run teams across the project life cycle as developers, engineers, project owners, and investors. We have a keen understanding of the needs of each, and more importantly, what they don't need, because we have literally walked in their shoes.

FastGrid is often involved in a project at its very inception, providing expertise when a project is first visualized to determine ideal locations, preferred interconnections, and support of the interconnection process. As the project progresses, our development engineering team provides everything from layouts, technology evaluation, and energy modeling to complex analysis and optimization of energy output and its balance to capital cost. This is crucial to any solar project, but critical to a project that has an energy storage element, either paired or standalone. Finally, our detailed design, or engineer of record team, provides construction drawings and support to EPC's or owners, which encapsulate all that has been done.

When you consider that our interconnection and siting team has more than 25 years of experience across all major ISOs, our development engineering team supports greater than 300 distinct projects a year, and our detailed design team completes more than 1.5GW per year, the amount of industry exposure and know-how collected is an invaluable resource for our clients and partners.

How did you get into this kind of work, especially as a former Navy veteran?

To say the least, it has been an interesting journey from being a U.S. Navy sailor to becoming a business owner. After graduate school, I worked in the power generation industry - developing and financing co-generation projects globally. Shortly after joining NRG Energy a few years later, I was offered the opportunity to launch its distributed solar business, and I have been in the solar space ever since. The renewables industry is a constantly changing and fascinating industry to work in; every client has a different puzzle to solve.

How does FastGrid find its clients and their projects? Are you opportunistic in the work that you do?

We started our business based on the importance of relationships, and we believe that is the most critical element of our business today. We are not a service provider to our clients, but rather a collaborative partner - we align ourselves with the client's needs to drive successful execution. This level of commitment, responsiveness, and agility has afforded us the opportunity for continuous growth through word of mouth, referrals, and reputation. Surprising as it may be to some, we do not perform any formal marketing per se. The goal of creating long-term relationships with our partners and clients is just as important to us today as it was when we launched the business. If our clients and partners don't succeed, we don't either. Case in point, every one of our clients, regardless of project size or location, has my and my business partner's cell number, and we are available anytime should an issue arise, if they need a second opinion on a project decision, or if they merely have a question. That level of client interaction is not only important to us, but also the reason we do what we do - and it's fun!

There are only a few states in the United States where you haven't done any project work. In fact, you have done project work in the Caribbean. Tell us what you have noticed about working in the Carribean that makes it more unique.

Site visits for projects in the Caribbean are generally much more popular with the team than site visits to some parts of the United States! Joking aside, the Caribbean is focused on energy resilience. Many of the islands use propane and diesel, and everything that's consumed must be delivered to the island/location. It's logistically burdensome and inefficient to provide the diesel and fuel oil that run the generators powering the islands. In addition, the infrastructure is very dated and susceptible to natural events.

So, it makes sense that the Caribbean is looking to make some changes to help stabilize its grid and boost commercial prosperity. Much of Puerto Rico's land area has been leveled by storms, and the country is beginning to install solar and storage on a large scale. FastGrid completed solar projects in the Virgin Islands, and recently finished a standalone storage project for an industrial facility to replace a 40-year-old gas turbine.

Finally, everyone in the renewable energy field has a great story - something that is a fun fact about a project or client that surprised them. What is yours?

In a previous life, I developed, funded, and constructed microgrids for the National Football League (NFL). In fact, the first project was a customized $20 million solar installation. At the last minute, our steel supplier said that a raw materials order had to be placed by the end of the day, or else the project would not be completed and ready by opening day. This happened in May, and opening day was in August. So, I asked my boss for the multi-million-dollar raw materials commitment right on the spot. "Curry," my boss said, "that is the either the dumbest thing anyone has ever told me, or you will be a hero. I'll approve the amount and look forward to seeing how this turns out." With a great team behind me, we completed the project on time and ready for opening day. That was the springboard into multiple NFL projects with other teams.

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