It is a known fact that solar power is the most reliable source of clean and renewable energy for our planet. The earliest use of solar energy dates back to the 7th century BCE when humans used sunlight to light fires with magnifying glass materials. We have always been fascinated and overwhelmed with the power of the sun and channeling this raw energy into usable energy for consumers has been one of the biggest and most technologically advanced undertakings for humankind; a challenge that was overcome in 1973 with the invention of the first solar panel.
Today, leading the quest to be the biggest and the best energy solutions providers is Guelph, Canada headquartered, Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CSIQ). Established in 2001, Canadian Solar has now grown into one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) products manufacturers, as well as one of the largest solar power plant developers. With the motto “Make the difference”, this company is responsible for delivering 55 GW of solar modules to thousands of customers in more than 150 countries, enough to meet the clean, green energy needs of approximately 14 million households, so far.
Over the last two decades Canadian Solar has been manufacturing and marketing modules and inverters for residential, commercial and utility applications, and recently added energy storage for commercial and utility customers. With manufacturing facilities and offices in more than 20 countries and more than 14,000 dedicated employees worldwide, the company owns the competitive advantage of being a single source for all their customers’ power storage needs right from modules to invertors to large solar plants installations.
The world’s leading solar solutions provider
When the company officially started in 2001, their first project was to design and manufacture solar trickle chargers for Volkswagen to keep the car batteries charged during transport and storage. When Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Technology Officer at Canadian Solar successfully provided Volkswagen with an energy-saving solution he and his company immediately received bankability and trust from their peers and other German manufacturers.
“The early successful relationship with Volkswagen positioned the company as a trusted solar provider when the feed-in tariff (FiT) programs in Germany and elsewhere in Europe began to stimulate large-scale growth in the on-grid solar PV market,” says Dr. Shawn Qu.
With its wide and integrated product catalog, Canadian Solar is considered by many to be the one-stop total solar energy solution provider. They employ skilled teams of experts who are responsible for project development, EPC, O&M, and Asset Management for their customers to give them the best possible solar solutions based on their individual requirements. Not only have Canadian Solar’s projects consistently achieved the highest production values and returns on investment but have also been voted #1 module supplier for the best price/performance ratio worldwide by IHS Markit’s customer survey.
Since the company has offices in 20 countries, skilled local representatives are always available worldwide to tend to their customers’ requirements. These employees work to first understand what their clients’ requirements are and then devise the best possible solution for them. Local offices also imply that Canadian Solar employees are always physically available for their clients.
Furthermore, Canadian Solar has also been accredited on the world stage for its industry-leading R&D expertise. With over 595 experienced R&D specialists, the company already has 2,500 authorized patents in the solar energy field since 2001. Their comprehensive portfolio is designed to meet the needs of worldwide requirements, right from a small house that needs an inverter or an industry that needs an entire power grid setup. If a solution is not available, this company will create one.
To achieve operational excellence and ensure high-quality products, Dr. Shawn Qu has also put in place many innovative operational measures like a 442-step quality control protocol that they follow for every product right from raw material to product delivery. This quality check ensures that each product from his company is manufactured and installed with the same amount of precision and high standards.
“With our expanding products and services, service portfolio, and expert team, we are able to provide our customers with a true one-stop solution offering integrated design, faster deployment, and lower system cost,” says Dr. Shawn Qu.
Innovation is the key to success
Dr. Shawn Qu entered solar energy soon after graduating from college. He saw this industry as his opportunity to not only bring energy to every household worldwide but also to do it in a clean sustainable manner, one that benefits the environment. With the ideology “Lead solar into every household; create a better and cleaner earth for future generations.” the team at Canadian Solar works to bring to the market a combination of manufacturing, R&D, and development services.
In its initial years, the company was a very expensive almost R&D level industry. They would manufacture high-end energy solutions for bigger enterprises. Eventually, the needs of the consumers changed and new technologies came into play. The consumer now wanted more energy production capacities for a lesser price. Keeping up with these changing circumstances, Canadian Solar started to develop modules with higher efficiency and wattage while simultaneously achieving an overall reduction in manufacturing costs and a reduction in the amount of land and labor required. To industries and governments alike this made solar energy even more attractive from an economic standpoint as well as from an environment preserving one.
“Energy moves the world, created wars in the past and access to it defines who is rich and who is poor, what countries are developed, and which ones are not,” says Dr. Shawn Qu.
In the decades that it has been in business, Canadian Solar is responsible for thousands of solar projects big and small. Every project is different and has its own set of challenges and obstacles. One can face issues at any stage of a solar project whether it is financial negotiations or on-site installations. He talks about this one recent project where they were not able to pass the ground testing because of some parts of a fence. The simple solution was to dig the fence deeper but he and his team took the time and made the effort to first go back to the drawing board and then conclude if that really was the best and most cost-effective solution. Such is the commitment and customer-centric approach of the workers at Canadian Solar.
Boasting 14,000+ employees in countries worldwide, Canadian Solar offers its workers exciting global careers and the opportunities to work with like-minded people of different diversities. Employees get to volunteer to transfer to different countries and share their experience and knowledge in developing the energy requirements in their area. There is due recognition given to those who display their passion and innovation for their industry. At Canadian Solar employees are challenged to develop themselves, contribute positively and make a difference to the world.
A bright and sustainable future
Looking ahead, Dr. Shawn Qu sees nothing but a bright solar-powered future. “Energy storage will be a critical enabler of the solar energy market going forward,” he says. With solar energy becoming more of a necessity than an optional requirement, the company aims at continuously evolving and remaining at the forefront of its industry. In the last few years, they doubled their total storage project development pipeline and hope to see this positive growth continue.
In 2020 the company raised $260 million for the planned MSS business IPO and completed a $230 million convertible bond issuance. This will provide the company with a quick expansion of its manufacturing capabilities with the most advanced technologies. They aim at shipping out 20GW in 2021 as opposed to 18GW in 2020.
“We are making a difference; our industry has been growing at double digits for 2 decades and the coming future is more exciting than ever. How could I work on something different?” says Dr. Shawn Qu.
Canadian Solar is considered to be one of the top trusted and bankable companies in the solar industry by the likes of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, IHS Markit, PV Magazine, and others. With his worldwide team of like-minded individuals who want to make a difference and leave a clean and green world for the generations ahead, Dr. Shawn Qu has taken on the challenge to create affordable, clean, accessible and most of all sustainable energy for everybody.