University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Shawn Qu
Shawn Qu. Photo by Lee Towndrow

Here Comes the Sun

Shawn Qu's Canadian Solar is already one of the world’s largest solar energy companies. Ten years from now he wants it to be an industry leader

Shawn Qu’s philosophy of life and business is simple: seize the opportunity. Qu has been abiding by that edict since he arrived in Canada from China in 1987 to pursue postgraduate studies.

Qu threw himself into life at U of T, where he became the founding president of the Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in Canada and joined the debating club, all the while working on his PhD in metallurgy and material science.

After earning his doctorate in 1995, Qu went to work for Ontario Hydro where he conducted research into solar power systems. He moved into the private solar industry in 1998 to hone his business and management skills.

In 2001, Qu was enjoying a comfortable and secure corporate lifestyle when he decided to give it all up and form a new solar energy company on his own. And with that, Canadian Solar was born. His first commercial product was a small solar charger attached to a windshield that recharged automobile batteries. Sales of the solar charger skyrocketed.

The success of the charger helped fuel Canadian Solar’s extraordinary growth and expansion into solar systems for residential and broader commercial installations. Today, Canadian Solar is one of the world’s largest solar energy–systems manufacturers with 7,000 employees on three continents, and annual revenues of more than US $800 million.

But Qu’s not satisfied. He wants to become a world leader in the solar energy industry. Before the new decade is out, Qu, 46, aims to grab at least 10 per cent of the worldwide solar energy market and to be among the industry’s top five earners. “Solar energy is going to play a very important role in the transformation of the Canadian economy,” he says.

Recent Posts

Photo of front campus field and Convocation Hall with flower emoji illustrations floating above

Clearing the Air

U of T wants to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050. It’s enlisting on-campus ingenuity for help

Abstract illustration showing a red-coloured body and face, with small black and white pieces flowing from inside body out of the mouth, and the U.S. Capitol Building dangling on puppet strings from one hand

The Extremism Machine

Online disinformation poses a danger to society. Researchers at U of T’s Citizen Lab are tracking it – and trying to figure out how to stop it

Prof. Mark V. Campbell with a beige background and red lighting

Charting Hip Hop’s Course

Professor Mark V. Campbell grew up during the early years of rap music. Now, he is helping preserve Canadian hip-hop culture for future generations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *