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Gaining market share while balancing the books

Canadian Solar Inc. is one of the world’s largest solar module producers. In this interview, Gregory Spanoudakis, President of European Operations, shares his thoughts on the company’s ever-growing success and the outlook for 2010.

PES: Welcome back to PES magazine. What have been the challenges and the successes that your company has faced since we spoke last year?
Gregory Spanoudakis: In February this year we announced that five of our solar module series, CS6P- 220P, 225P, 230P, CS5P-240M and CS5A- 180M, rank amongst the highest performing in last month’s PV USA (PTC) ratings. PTC ratings are quickly becoming universally accepted standards for measuring real-world module power and performance.

The PTC measurement, a mandatory test in the State of California, measures a PV system’s power output at atmospheric conditions that closely resemble true solar and climatic variable conditions. A higher PV rating indicates higher actual production on-site per-watt installed, which translates directly into higher rebates for system owners.

We also entered into a sales contract with Fire Energy Group in January. Under terms of the contract, shipments started in January, with Canadian Solar expected to supply 60MW of PV modules to Fire Energy in 2010.

We announced that we were commencing the site selection and approvals process to establish a 200 megawatt (MW) module manufacturing facility in Ontario. The new facility’s expected to result in 500 new direct manufacturing jobs in Ontario and sufficient capacity to supply electricity to 60,000 homes per year. The estimated cost of the plant will be C$24 million, and once completed, it will be one of the largest solar panel manufacturing facilities in North America, further strengthening our position as the country’s leading, Canadian-owned manufacturer of solar modules.

A major challenge last year was the financial crisis coupled with Spain and bad weather in Germany. It was almost a ‘perfect storm’ for solar. Our biggest success was gaining market share and keeping our balance sheet intact throughout.

PES: There is a lot of talk about Ontario’s pioneering feed-in-tariff programme, can you explain how it has benefited your company?
GS: It will benefit us going forward, since Ontario is expected to generate noticeable demand in 2010 and 2011. We expect to capture significant market share here. For example, we signed a turnkey solution distribution agreement with Satcon Technology Corporation to market our commercial solar PV systems with Satcon’s commercial solar PV inverters for commercial rooftop and ground mounted power stations. This meets the domestic content requirements outlined by the Ontario government in its feed-in-tariff programme.

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