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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.

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