“Renewable energy will help end our reliance on fossil fuels and combat the severe threat that climate change poses to humans and wildlife alike.” – Frances Beinecke, Environmental Activist and Politician
The whole world is being compelled to pivot to renewable sources of energy. Deterioration of the environment is one reason enough for us to understand the importance of making substantial changes in the way we look at consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels.
Solar Power—although small—is being rapidly adopted as a source of electricity in Canada. As per the data recorded by the Government of Canada, the capacity of the Solar PV industry in Canada in 2018 was 3,040 MW. The National Energy Board projects that solar electricity will amount for 1.2% of the country’s total energy output and consumption by 2040.
Companies operating in the solar power niche have ceaselessly emphasized on the adoption of clean energy. Through continuous technological innovation and development, these companies have opened doors to numerous possibilities of attaining this adoption.
One prominent name among such companies is Canadian Solar Inc., a leading manufacturer of solar PV modules, inverters, and a provider of solar energy solutions. With its headquarters in Guelph, Canada, the company is a global energy provider with successful business subsidiaries in 20 countries & regions on 6 continents.
A Vision of Change
Canadian Solar Inc. was founded by Dr. Shawn Qu, the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, with a bold vision of bringing solar energy into thousands of households and building a better earth for the next generations. Over 14,000 dedicated employees of Canadian Solar strive each day to make this vision a reality.
The company has two main lines of business. The primary line being manufacturing and sale of solar products and services. The secondary being energy – the development, construction, and sale of solar PV projects, working with both build-to-sell and build-to-hold business models.
“We have grown into one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic products and energy solutions providers, as well as one of the largest solar power plant developers globally. We have cumulatively delivered over 55 GW of solar modules to thousands of customers in more than 150 countries, enough to meet the clean and green energy needs of approximately 14 million household,” says Dr. Qu.
Exemplary Business Excellence
Canadian Solar’s comprehensive product portfolio can efficiently meet customers’ solar needs with leading PV module technology. To ensure that customers always get the best quality product, the company’s solar panels go through a staggering 442 quality control points right from raw material to product delivery.
Canadian Solar is a total solution provider, with a team of experts covering Project Development, EPC, O&M, and Asset Management. It was voted #1 module supplier for the best price/performance ratio worldwide by IHS Markit’s customer survey. The company is also dedicated to making the difference wherever it operates, which is why it has water and raw material recycling programs in its factories and PV module recycling partnership in the US, Australia, and Europe.
The Changemaker’s Journey
Dr. Shawn Qu founded Canadian Solar in 2001 to foster sustainable development and to create a better and cleaner earth for future generations by bringing electricity powered by the sun to millions of people worldwide.
Under Dr. Qu’s leadership, Canadian Solar has grown into one of the largest solar photovoltaic products and energy solutions providers, as well as one of the largest solar power plant developers globally. The company has cumulatively delivered over 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.
Sharing his advice to those aspiring to venture into the solar manufacturing business, Dr. Qu says, “First, find something you have passion in. I personally like solar industry, as it provides green energy and benefits the whole human race. The hard work I put in not only gave me monetary payback, but also spiritual accomplishments.”
“Second, find something you have experience in. In the manufacturing business, experience is important. You must work in it for quite a considerable amount of time to be able to find something special to start with. Last, find something you can do differently. You need to find your own differentiation at the beginning,” Dr. Qu expresses.
Opinions that Matter
We asked Dr. Shawn Qu for his opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the manufacturing business, to which he said, “While the evolution of the pandemic is deeply distressing, at Canadian Solar, we recognize that it is more important now than ever for us to stay strong, calm, rational, and above all, safe. At Canadian Solar, we firmly stand in solidarity with our employees, customers, and partners around the world. There is a huge impact on economies, businesses, industries, and society.”
“For example, inflationary pressures on the manufacturing industry, including solar; delayed capacity expansion plans for all commodities during COVID—capacity restart takes time leading to temporary shortage of certain raw materials including polysilicon; temporary impact as lots of upstream capital investment due to attractive margins—eventually restore a more balanced supply and demand.”
“However, solar is still the most attractive source of energy with lowest LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) and carbon footprint. The global weighted-average solar PPA price for solar farms commissioning in 2021 is $0.039 per kWh, which is cheaper than fossil fuel generation in most countries.”
“800 GW of fossil fuel capacity is expected to retire in the next decade, and 2,700 GW in the next three decades. So, the innate economics for solar energy is very strong. When you look at it in terms of climate impact, it is the best solution to the economic, ecological, and social parity problems we face – pandemic situation or not,” adds Dr. Qu.
Expressing his take on the importance of aligning one’s business with the latest technological developments, Dr. Qu says, “In the last several years, the industry envisaged rapid changes in technologies, for instance, from aluminum back surface cell to PERC cell, and from full-cell monofacial module to bifacial half-cell modules. This technological development transformed the whole industry and the ones leading these changes benefited the most.”
“In the following years, we expect new technologies will continue emerging as before. Canadian Solar is committed to developing advanced and beneficial technologies in the whole value chain and transform those to products and services to benefit our customers,” expressed Dr. Qu.
Voyaging towards a Better Future
Talking about his vision for sustaining Canadian Solar’s market competency in the coming years, Dr Qu says, “Innovation is a key for our business. Canadian Solar holds over 2,500 authorized patents worldwide and have 3,500 patents awaiting approval until the end of March 2021. From 2020, there has been a shift to larger wafer sizes and modules, which has been a major driver in the rapid growth of the top end of solar module watt ranges.”
“However, I think we should continue to see further evolution in cell technology to increase the cell efficiency. In fact, we set new world records for multicrystalline cell efficiency three times in the past years. The trick is to do it cost-effectively and reliably at scale, which we are working on.”
“The latest example is the Q1 production of our first N-type heterojunction (HJT) solar cell from our newest state-of-the-art 250 MW pilot line. Our teams are rapidly improving the cell conversion efficiency of these new cells, and we expect to start delivering our first cutting-edge HJT solar modules in the third quarter this year,” says Dr. Qu.
Canadian Solar has been transitioning from a pure solar module manufacturer to an integrated solar system solution provider, and project development since 2009. With the company’s expanding product, service portfolio, and expertise team, it can provide customers with a true one stop solution, offering integrated design, faster deployment, and lower system cost.
The team at Canadian Solar are of the opinion that energy storage will be a critical enabler of the solar energy market going forward. In this aspect, the company has nearly doubled its total storage project development pipeline and expects this positive momentum to continue, which should greatly enhance the value of its development pipeline.
The company further strengthened its competitive position with its recent strategic partnership with AI Energy Storage Optimization Company called Habitat Energy, which will leverage Canadian Solar’s global scale and platform, while helping it improve the software capabilities of its battery storage projects.
“As always, Canadian Solar is at the forefront of developing and commercializing the energy innovations that matter to our customers,” concludes Dr. Qu.
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