Canadian Solar CEO Shawn Qu verteld over het pad dat hij tot nu toe bewandeld heeft.
Dr. Shawn Qu founded Canadian Solar in 2001 with little more than a vision and his personal savings. Just 14 years later the company operates on 6 continents and is set to achieve annual turnover over $3 billion. Last year, 2014, saw the purchase of major US energy developer, Recurrent, and this year brings the listing of an independent Yield-Co. that will offer investors secure, stable returns.
Raised by his parents, both university professors in mathematics, Shawn Qu describes his upbringing in China during the cultural revolution of the ‘60s and ‘70s as “materially poor but spiritually rich”. His parents instilled a love of knowledge in him, while circumstance ingrained frugality. Both attributes have proved fundamental to Canadian Solar’s success, which, while significant, has been far from an overnight affair.
Shawn Qu arrived in Canada in 1987, shortly after the Chinese government first allowed students to leave the country to study abroad. In his mid-20s at the time, he had an undergraduate physics degree from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and the promise of a scholarship from the University of Manitoba. After completing his master’s degree in physics, Mr. Qu moved to the University of Toronto to do a PhD in materials science. It was here that his interest in solar power first took hold.
After graduation, he took a position at Ontario Hydro (now called Ontario Power Generation) working on a solar power project that was subsequently sold to ATS Automation Tooling Systems in Cambridge, Ont. As luck would have it, ATS had also bought Photowatt, a French solar product manufacturing firm that gave Dr. Qu exposure to yet another culture.
It also gave him a sense of the social value of solar power. One of ATS’s projects was a Canadian government-supported scheme to help with rural electrification in China. His group developed tiny solar cell and battery systems that could power two lamps and a radio. “It was a very interesting project that gave me a chance to visit these remote areas. People really loved it.”
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