Canadian Solar Inc: A brighter future for the solar industry
Through cutting-edge technologies and its commitment to sustainable energy, Canadian Solar is a company which lives up to its slogan - ‘making a difference’. Over its 16-year history, the company has had a successful track record of developing, engineering, constructing and connecting solar projects worldwide and now boasts a total project pipeline of 9.5GW. Indeed, as one of the three biggest solar companies in the world by revenue, Canadian Solar has established itself as a name the industry can trust.
For Dylan Marx, Managing Director of Global EPC and Operations and Maintenance Services, the key to the company’s success lies in its comprehensive services and innovative approach. “We really like to think of ourselves as a full solution provider rather than just a ‘solar panel company,” he says. “We're trying to really understand what our customers are looking for, what’s prohibiting them from being successful, and then developing solutions to cater for that.”
Initially beginning its O&M services from an asset owner perspective, Canadian Solar has sold many of its assets to third parties as it has built and developed new ones. Demonstrating its business acumen, Canadian Solar continues to provide O&M services to these third party clients and has expanded its solutions to include a unique offering of products including medium voltage stations, string inverters, PV connectors as well as its PV modules. “Now, we primarily service the projects that we sold and thanks to our O&M services we have been able to leverage our knowledge to maximise the efficiency and performance of these assets,” says Marx.
A commitment to efficiency and performance is integral to Canadian Solar’s ethos. The company’s PV panels have been so thoroughly tested under harsh conditions, that it not only offers a 25-year warranty, but also guarantees the power output for 20 years. The company also conducts 359 internal quality tests daily and, in doing so, keeps efficiency and productivity high on its agenda.
This commitment to efficiency also extends to Canadian Solar’s O&M services. “We’ve recently developed a custom monitoring software platform that conducts a performance test every day based on the previous day’s performance,” adds Marx. “This allows us to verify every single day that a plant has or hasn’t performed as it was expected to, even if there are no obvious problems or alarms. This essentially allows us to run a performance test on every asset every day. That commitment to maximising efficiency and performance is a key advantage that we've been able to offer to our customers.”
With a 9,700-strong workforce globally, Canadian Solar boasts some of the best talent and expertise in the industry who are motivated to innovate and research so that they can improve the company’s solar cell and solar module technologies. With R&D investments of over US$600mn, Canadian Solar is widely recognised as a key innovator in the solar industry, says Marx.
“R&D is a critical component of our global operation,” he adds. “I think we have some of the most experienced and respected researchers, scientists and engineers who are continually innovating and developing our next wave of technologies.
“The solar industry is very competitive, and often what distinguishes a company is whether it has a head start with a given technology. Therefore, Canadian Solar is investing heavily in R&D to ensure that we are truly at the cutting edge of technology and innovation.”
This drive towards technological ingenuity is a core focus for the company. One cutting-edge technology that Marx is particularly excited about are Canadian Solar’s Ku series of modules, the company’s new line of solar products, based on the next-generation dual-cell technology. With low power loss in cell interconnection and low operating temperatures, this technology has higher output, better shading performance and is more reliable, explains Marx.
“It really offers unparalleled performance characteristics,” he says. “There's a whole range of advantages that the technology offers and I think that's why the company is focused on and investing in R&D. We really offer a full range of solutions to the market and I think that’s pretty unique. Not many of our competitors offer that type of variety.
“Many of our competitors are focused on producing as many panels as they can and not focusing on innovation,” Marx adds. “In contrast, Canadian Solar has always been innovative and has tried to offer something different that's more compelling to the customer.”
The solar industry is a competitive one to be in, but if there is one thing that can define the integrity and indeed the success of a company, it is trust.
A bankable brand
Over 1,200 active customers across the globe have put their faith in Canadian Solar. As one of the most long-standing tier-one suppliers in the industry, Canadian Solar has established itself as a stable business operation and a name that the sector can rely on. “To us, being a tier one supplier is primarily based on trust,” explains Marx. “It shows how much you can trust the quality of Canadian Solar's products, the performance characteristics that we offer, and the products and services we provide. It demonstrates the bankability of our company and, more than anything, it shows that our customers can trust our products and performance.”
As one of the three biggest solar companies in the world by revenue, Canadian Solar is widely recognised as a market leader in the industry. With the growth of renewables and an increasing focus on ‘going greener’, it seems that the future of Canadian Solar is looking bright.
“We're very optimistic about the opportunities for solar, the continued adoption of renewables and the growth of these types of technologies,” reflects Marx. “For example, more than 60% of the total generating capacity that was added in the US last year was solar power. That’s a really striking trend and we expect that growth of solar energy to continue.
“I think Canadian Solar has a competitive edge because we’re different to some of our competitors,” he concludes. “We feel really proud of our new Ku module technologies as well as the next generation of technologies that we have coming down the pipeline. But more than that, I think we’ll continue to be successful because we’re much more than ‘just a solar company’; we’re a comprehensive solution.”