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CANADIAN SOLAR: Delivering Uncompromising Value to Customers

Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar module producers, is a leading vertically-integrated provider of ingots, wafers, solar cells, solar modules, solar power systems and specialized solar products. Its customers across the globe choose the company for its high-quality solar PV products with market-leading cost structures. Shawn Qu, Chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar Inc., shares the story of its world-renowned technical expertise and corporate marketing strategies as well as its future plan in this interview with Amanda Kim, Senior Editor of InterPV.

Shawn Qu, Chairman and CEO, Canadian Solar Inc.


Reported by Amanda Kim (kbs@infothe.com)


Canadian Solar, headquartered in Canada, has successfully established 7 wholly-owned manufacturing subsidiaries in China. And your new R&D center is located in Suzhou, one of the solar provinces in China. Please explain the advantages of having the manufacturing and R&D subsidiaries in China.


PV market has been growing exponentially in the last few years. China has now become one of the world’s leading PV manufacturing regions. To maintain a competitive edge, Canadian Solar has set up 7 subsidiaries in China. Having an R&D center nearby its manufacturing facilities offers us a real world testing site that can facilitate the introduction of new technology into the marketplace much faster. In addition to our own R&D, we are also partnering with some world-famous research institutions, such as the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands.


Do you have any plans for opening more wholly-owned subsidiaries or merging or partnering with some other companies in China or any other regions in the future?


We are always evaluating the market from a general business, growth and competitive standpoint. Any future M&A, or partnership with other companies, would be determined by our long-term business development plan, as well as our investors’ interests.


You have been delivering high-quality solar power products including cells and modules to customers worldwide since 2001. What is your driving force behind becoming one of the global leaders in providing solar power products?


Our commitment to a cleaner, sustainable future, our global management team with insight and a deep understanding of each PV market, our ability to combine the best from the Western technology and management with our competitive manufacturing advantages from the East and our expertise in PV industry, all are driving forces making Canadian Solar one of the global leaders in providing solar power products.


How do you stand out among the competition in terms of both sales and technology development?


Thanks to our proprietary technology development, lean manufacturing processes, effective cost control management and long-term partnerships with material suppliers, we are able to offer our customers highest-quality solar panels at industry-leading competitive cost, and we are able to offer our customers the highest return of investment in their PV projects.


What do you think is the most urgent technology that needs to be developed in the solar PV materials industry? And what does Canadian Solar do to meet this need?


At the moment, the whole industry is working on increasing the energy conversion efficiency on the whole PV value chain. This is extremely important if PV is to become the main alternative energy source. The increase in efficiency not only can bring down a PV system cost, but also make it more easily available to its users. This is analogous to the computer. 40 years ago, the first IBM computer was a massive, extremely expensive machine. Today, they are in school bags worldwide. Advances have made them smaller, faster, and dramatically more powerful tools.

Canadian Solar’s senior management team has many years of experience in PV industry. We see the importance of technology development. We have a comprehensive R&D roadmap and we are well on track. We recently announced that we will apply technology for Metal Wrap-Through (MWT) cells to Canadian Solar’s production lines, potentially able to bring our cell efficiency up to 18.5%.


Please tell us about your sales and marketing strategy.


We usually try to establish a local branch in key PV markets. This is the case in the U.S., where we established our own sales and marketing team, hired local sales and support experts, and created a warehouse to efficiently and effectively serve our customers in the U.S. We are also evaluating project financing, which could potentially help our customers with their respective PV projects.


Canadian Solar achieved a significant 134% growth of revenue in 2008 over 2007. What contributed to this remarkable growth?


Our business strategy, our teams in key PV markets, our quality products, our after-sales support and our efficient and effective manufacturing are the driving forces behind this impressive 134% growth. Providing customers with great PV products at industry-leading competitive cost and prices is a successful, global strategy.


Will there be any important contract or project lined up for Canadian Solar sooner or later?


We are always in discussions in all of our regions as part of our ongoing business.


What is your future plan to be able to stay ahead in the highly competitive solar business?


We will continue to modify our R&D roadmap and adjust accordingly as Canadian Solar needs to. We plan to introduce several new technologies to increase both cell and module efficiency.


As a solar expert, how long do you think it will be before solar PV reach grid parity?


Looking at the current competitive PV market, technology improvements through the PV value chain, as well as the continued price drop of silicon price, I think grid parity can potentially arrive in the U.S. in less than 5 years.


Last, but not least, what should people reading this interview remember most about Canadian Solar?


Canadian Solar is the leading vertically-integrated provider of ingot, wafer, solar cell, solar module and other solar applications.



Amanda Kim is Senior Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to kbs@infothe.com. 



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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