Blogs

Women’s History Month 2022

Throughout women’s history month, we have highlighted women doing amazing work in solar at our parent company, Silicon Ranch, on social media. Here we have compiled all four interviews with these inspiring ladies. But of course, we couldn’t end the month without highlighting our own CEO, Laura Zapata. Here are a few words from her about being a woman in solar: 

Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Laura Zapata, Co-Founder of Clearloop

As March comes to a close, I’ve been trying to take the time to reflect on what it’s been like to be a woman founder in the sustainability and renewable energy space. The truth is that it’s been really hard to squeeze in that “thinking time” in between all of the “doing time”—going to meetings, crafting contracts, and hiring a team. But all of that activity feels like it has greater meaning in the context of Women’s History Month. For me, one of the most exciting things about building Clearloop has been the realization that by embracing my lived experiences, we’re creating something brand new in the climate solutions space. It is that outsider perspective that has allowed me and my co-founders to build a new way of thinking about everything, from the big “planetary problem” of slashing greenhouse gases to the “people problem” of investing in American communities that are getting left behind. I feel very privileged to be in a space where women are pioneering innovative ways to grow our industry and making history in big and small ways. I’m also especially proud to be working alongside the kick-butt women in our broader Silicon Ranch team and I’m grateful to them for showing me the ropes. Throughout this month, we sought to dig a little deeper to shine a light on their own contribution to the renewable energy industry.  Below are some of their stories and advice: 

Ali Weaver 

Director, Project Development 

1. What did you study in school?  

Energy Management at the University of Oklahoma 

2. How did you get involved in the solar industry?  

I was negotiating across the table from two Silicon Ranch employees (still here today) on a Surface Use Agreement in Colorado and after doing a few deals together, they convinced me to come work for SRC 

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?  

Every day is different but that is part of the fun! In general, my team is charged with identifying, securing, and de-risking properties through due diligence on projects. We also secure the necessary entitlements from any authority having jurisdiction. The Development team is a primary interface to the communities where we are located, so we are also natural stewards of the company and the industry. 

4. What is your advice for young women looking to break into the renewable energy field?  

The career opportunities are endless in renewable energy, and you don’t have to be an engineer to work in the business. I highly recommend taking advantage of free online courses and materials to get acquainted with the industry and believe more than anything that having the passion for the business will take you further than having any specific credentials. Good ole fashion networking is also important to meet prospective employers for now and in the future 

Morgan Bayly 

Interconnection Project Manager 

1. What did you study in school? 

Engineering & Management at Clarkson University 

2. How did you get involved in the solar industry? 

I had first become interested in solar while working for an electrical equipment manufacturer that had its own small solar field attached to the facility. The more I learned about the technology and its capabilities, the more passionate I became about the positive impacts of solar energy. With this interest in the industry and having been located in Nashville, I was fortunate enough to make connections that helped me land my position at SRC. 

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis? 

The day-to-day tasks of the Interconnection Project Management role is variable. Our main goal is to manage the process of interconnecting between our solar site and the utility/utilities whose system(s) we are connecting to. We maintain a relationship with our utility partners and provide interconnection support to other Silicon Ranch teams so that we can all work toward our shared goal of successful project completion. 

4. What is your advice for young women looking to break into the renewable energy field? 

The renewable energy field is growing so much, which means there is so much opportunity! Mostly, I would tell young women that if they are really interested, don’t let a lack of experience in the industry deter you. A lot of this business is relatively new, so there are a lot of people joining the industry without prior direct experience. You may have a lot of skills needed for a role through other past experiences and if you are passionate about renewable energy, keep pursuing roles and continue networking. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who works in renewables – I’ve found that this community of people is so passionate about what they do that they love to talk to others about it and get more people involved! 

Jennifer Cain  

Vice President, Projects 

1. What did you study in school? 

BS in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Technological University 

MS in Civil Engineering, Concentration in Construction Management from Vanderbilt University 

2. How did you get involved in the solar industry? 

I worked with a few consulting companies prior to joining Silicon Ranch, focusing on design and construction inspection of transmission, distribution, and the civil aspects of substations. A portion of my projects were with traditional utility partners and a portion were with EPC contractors and developers in support of renewable projects. I really liked working on both types of projects. I had the opportunity to join Silicon Ranch a little over 5 years ago working on operations team. This allowed me to use my knowledge of both traditional utilities and the renewables side I’d picked up along the way and bring them together to execute projects that met our needs as owners and the requirements of our interconnection partners. 

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis? 

Our team works to bring together the execution phase of a project.  We work closely with every other department of our company as well as with our various external parties, such as suppliers, consultants, utilities, and our partner contractors to construct our projects.  With as many internal and external stakeholders involved and the nature of the work itself, there is always wrench or two thrown into the works to makes every project just a little different (or a lot different, in some cases!) from the last.  Because of this, there are always puzzles to solve. My role is to support the project managers and site managers as they solve the puzzles and successfully execute these projects. 

4. What is your advice for young women looking to break into the renewable energy field? 

When starting out in any chosen field, keep an open mind, be prepared for the opportunities that come your way, try to find work that is rewarding, and work with people who support you and make your life better. Specific to renewables, don’t assume there is one path that leads to working in the renewables field. My path was the engineering route, but there are a number of people on my team and at Silicon Ranch that have varied backgrounds and those varied backgrounds make the team stronger!   

Mary Balthrop 

Legal Counsel, Real Estate & Project Development 

1. What did you study in school?  

I studied sociology as an undergrad at Rice and got my law degree from UVA 

2. How did you get involved in the solar industry?   

My background is in commercial real estate – I spent most of my career before working at SRC supporting the development of office buildings, industrial facilities and shopping centers.  I had zero solar experience before starting this job, but luckily many of the skills needed to manage real estate issues remain the same no matter what you’re building on top of the dirt! 

3. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?   

Most days I’m bouncing around between: supporting our PD team to diligence, de-risk, and buy the many, many acres of land that host our projects; creating new real estate rights (like easements and ground leases); supporting the project finance team, who use the project sites as collateral for our project financing efforts; and fielding the endless questions and surprises that come up in between. 

4. What is your advice for young women looking to break into the renewable energy field?   

Every field, this one included, is full of specialists who got their training outside of the industry.  Renewable energy needs accountants, lawyers, HR managers, marketing staff, and project managers (to name a few), and it’s rare for your first job to be your dream job.  Sometimes a winding path to the industry you choose can be just as rewarding as a straight one. 

Happy Women’s History Month—let’s keep making it. 


If you’re looking for a dynamic industry where you can contribute your own experience and perspective as part of a solution, look no further. Our doors are open to women and men of all backgrounds who want to make carbon a relic of the past. If you’re a student looking for an internship, apply here. 

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