Building your Trust in Solar

Founded in 2006, Jinko Solar Holding Co. Limited (NYSE: JKS) is a photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer that produces high quality crystalline ingots, wafers, cells, and mono- and multi- crystalline PV panels for the solar industry. It is reportedly one of the few PV manufacturers in the world that can produce at a capacity of 1.2 GW a year and the company has a goal to produce up to 1.5 GW by the end of the year.

It might sound ambitious, but Jinko Solar has proven itself to be a company that rises above the rest. According to IMS Research Institute’s yearly report of the biggest solar companies in the world, Jinko Solar is ranked at number five worldwide.

Jinko Solar currently employs more than 10,000 professionals within factories in Shangrao (Jiangxi) and Haining (Zhejiang), China covering more than 165 acres. The company’s global marketing centre is located in the modern business area of Pudong, Shanghai and has started expanding its international presence by establishing European representative offices in Munich, Switzerland, Bologna and Montepellier, a U.S. office in San Francisco and logistics warehouses in Europe.

“Since we were listed in 2010 on the NYSE, the company has been growing extremely rapidly, expanding capacity and covering over 25 countries where we do sales,” says Arturo Herrero, chief marketing officer of Jinko Solar who joined the company in March 2010 to drive its successful listing on the stock exchange.

“All of this is mainly thanks to a product we’re able to deliver at the right competitive price with very good quality standards and great strategies.”

Herrero has a track record of getting companies onto the NYSE. He previously worked as the VP of Sales and Marketing at Trina Solar Limited and helped get them listed onto the stock exchange as well. He has also held several positions at BP Solar, bringing with him years of experience and insights into the evolution of the solar industry.

Jinko Solar also prides itself in being one of the few producers in the world who is fully vertically integrated in its production process. “From the raw materials to the cells, we can produce the whole supply chain and control all the logistics under one roof.”

This is one of its main differentiators, as it enables Jinko Solar to control the quality of the product at all stages and deliver to customers on time, while remaining very cost competitive.

However, what all this leads to is the company’s ultimate goal, which is to help the industry establish trust.

“In an industry that has been in pain due to the lack of trust, we have seen a lot of competitors struggling to keep the level of efficiencies or commitment when replacing modules that aren’t working properly,” explains Herrero. “In our strategy from the beginning, we were very clear we wanted to make Jinko Solar a different company in this industry. That’s why our slogan is: building your trust in solar.”

Focus on Africa

Although Jinko Solar has done business around the world, the company has a long term vision for Africa and has already gotten involved in a few major initiatives.

“The whole continent is known for having the best conditions in terms of solar radiation,” says Herrero.

It’s common knowledge that Africa is a continent suffering from unreliable sources of energy. From black outs due to lack of energy sources tapped into the electrical grid, or a rapidly growing population and economy requiring a greater source of electricity to support its growth, or even a desire from governments to supplement or replace some of their traditional sources of energy, like coal or diesel, to cleaner alternatives, Jinko Solar has identified a great need for providing a solution that is incredibly cost-effective while also utilising renewable energy from the sun.

The company is currently working in South Africa from its headquarters in Cape Town and they are expanding fast, says Herrero.

The South African government has been taking actionable steps to not only increase the energy coming into the grid, but also to diversify it while reducing the country’s carbon emissions as 85 per cent of its energy source is currently coming from coal. Thus, in August 2011, the Department of Energy launched a Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) to partner with preferred energy developers who would construct various renewable energy projects across the country. The goal is to develop an 18GW renewable energy programme over the next 20 years.

“From the beginning, Jinko Solar has been considering South Africa as one of the most promising markets in the world. Along with local engineering firm WBHO-Building Energy, we have been selected for one of the largest projects in Africa. We have already started to supply the solar module shipping containers from our factories in China and then we will continue with local production in South Africa at our plant,” explains Herrero.

In this first South African project, Jinko Solar will be supplying WBHO with 81MW of PV modules for the solar PV park project in Gamagara Local Municipality, Northern Cape Province.

Jinko Solar will deliver a total of 344,540 PV high quality solar panels for the project, which is expected to generate approximately 146 GWh of power equivalent to supply electricity to 12,000 households and to reduce carbon emissions by about 145,800 tons annually.

Just this April, Jinko Solar also announced a second South African project, in development with Norway-based Scatec Solar, to deliver a total of 115MW of its high-efficiency solar panels for two projects in South Africa. Both projects are part of Phase 2 of South Africa’s IPP Procurement Program. The first project will consist of a total of 75 MW while the second project will consist of 40MW.

“We’re very happy, because between these two projects, we have already signed 200MW in South Africa. From there we will be developing our activities in many different countries in the Sub-Saharan region, but also in the North of the continent.”

Herrero says the company has been interested in the developments happening in the Northern region, like Morocco and Tunisia, but Jinko Solar is also looking at how things are developing in Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania.

Jinko Solar was also recently been rewarded with a large project in Kenya to develop one of the largest grid connected solar power plans in Africa. As the preferred supplier to China Jiangxi Corporation, the 50MW project will span across 81 hectares and the plant is expected to produce approximately 76,473 megawatts hours per year, reducing yearly carbon emissions by 64,190 tons and saving coal consumption by 24,470 tons annually.

Future Vision

Currently Jinko Solar has a 3 per cent market share and its goal is to have a 10 to 12 per cent market share over the next five years. What this means is the company is aggressively targeting certain markets, like China, India, Japan and a number of countries in Africa to develop and supply to projects.

“Here is where I see the most potential for growth and we believe that in five years, Jinko Solar may not only be number one in South Africa, but one of the top three suppliers within the whole continent if we do good intensive work in these emerging countries. We have the advantage of being first,” says Herrero.

Further than that, he believes the company’s positive relationships with banks and governments will help Jinko Solar more effectively expand across the continent.

“We have over 50 international banks that have been behind Jinko Solar for projects, including Standard Bank and RMB Bank in South Africa,” says Herrero.

“And governments who see Jinko Solar as a solution that is trustworthy and bankable, they can also help with introducing more modules for projects in other countries in Africa. Our goal, is not only to deliver solar modules, but to be able to implement the whole solution, to develop the projects ourselves and to work together with our partners and utilities to sell electricity, not only solar modules.”

Herrero ends the interview, emphasising the importance for investors to do their research and choose the right supplier, especially in light of the recent financial shakeout and some competitors in the industry calling bankruptcy or simply quitting.

He adds: “Our financials are solid, we have good cash flow, and have an almost 10 per cent gross margin. We believe we can provide the confidence again to the market to keep relying on this solution of photovoltaics. We believe solar is still at the beginning and there will be a big expansion. And we will keep committed to this industry to provide a solution to the renewable energy industry to make the world cleaner and better for all mankind.”