Thriving under a crazy market: An interview with JinkoSolar Chief Marketing Officer Arturo Herrero on JinkoSolar's R & D center, Blue Cell technology, and market success

Arturo Herrero
Arturo Herrero

Arturo Herrero is the chief marketing officer of JinkoSolar Holding Company. Mr. Herrero joined JinkoSolar as Chief Strategy Officer in March 2010.

Prior to that, he served as vice president of sales and marketing of Trina Solar Limited, from August 2007 to January 2010 and director of Trina Solar Limited from September 2006 to July 2007.

From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Herrero held different positions in BP Solar, with the latest one as global procurement manager.

 

 

Solar Server: Congratulations on the launch of your new R&D center in Shanghai. Specifically, what approaches is the R&D center taking to increase cell efficiencies?

Arturo Herrero: Being one of the only two companies that has its own lab in China is certainly a big milestone for JinkoSolar.

The R&D center will mainly be dedicated to conducting tests similar to those performed in TÜV or UL labs for evaluating modules. Our testing entails checking 16 different points of the production line to ensure modules of the highest quality. Having the ability to facilitate these tests in house leaves us well positioned to easily obtain certifications for our products down the road.

The rigorous testing we conduct gives us the confidence to increase the product warranties we offer our customers. We have now gone from offering a five-year product warranty to one lasting 10 years, and from 10 to 12 years on warranties guaranteeing a module output of at least 90 percent.

 

Solar Server: So the primary purpose of this research and development center is for testing. Are you also developing new technologies at this facility?

Arturo Herrero: Yes. While the primary focus of the facility is to conduct testing, we are also utilizing the center to improve upon our products and develop new offerings.

The R&D center will serve as a test bed for new products in terms of materials used, durability in different weather conditions, tension simulation, and more. During both TÜV and UL testing, panels endure more than 5,000 cycles of testing. If we can replicate this internally, we can make sure these modules will last for at least 25 years.

 

Solar Server: Will this new facility be certified to do testing for TÜV or UL?

Arturo Herrero: That is the idea, yes. For now, we are focused on TÜV testing, but we are also looking to have a partnership with UL in the near future.

 

Solar Server: Do you have a projected date for when you want to have TÜV certification?

Arturo Herrero: We are currently in conversations with TÜV, but have no firm date in place at the moment.

 

Solar Server: Can you tell me more about your Blue Cell technology, and how that increases cell efficiencies?

Arturo Herrero: The Blue Cell is one of the two technologies we have developed to reach our target cell efficiency of 18.6%, which we are on track to meet.

The Blue Cell technology is based on increasing the diagonal size of wafers to expose more surface area to the sun, therefore enabling higher efficiencies.

The other technology we recently launched is the Quantum-1 module, which utilizes pseudo-mono multi-crystalline cells. The ingots for Quantum-1 are produced through a casting process using polycrystalline furnaces; this provides a major advantage because the alignment of the crystallization structure then imitates the structure of mono ingots and yields much higher efficiencies. Quantum-1 modules perform at 240 watts, versus the standard of only 230-235 watts.

 

Solar Server: I note that JinkoSolar had a fabulous first quarter of 2011. Congratulations.

Arturo Herrero: Thank you. We had a good end of the year for 2010, a good first half of 2011. We’re really proud that we’ve reached our guidance every quarter.

 

Solar Server: So many tier 1 companies lost revenue sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, and yet JinkoSolar saw a 21% increase in revenues. How did you do it?

Arturo Herrero: I think the secret lies in our ability to understand market trends better than our competitors, with a great deal of credit belonging to our exceptional team.

Additionally, by strategically aligning with quality partners, we are able to better serve our customers. We maintain stellar customer relations through providing flexibility whenever possible.

Additionally, last year, many companies signed contracts they were unable to fulfill, and ultimately lost customers’ trust. JinkoSolar strives to hold true to our company’s slogan, “Building your trust in solar". When we sign a contract with our customers, we guarantee we will deliver only the highest quality products, on time and with outstanding service. We also understand the difficulties of the industry and are flexible in accommodating price fluctuations faster than our competitors.

 

Solar Server: That's been very important in the last quarter.

Arturo Herrero: It truly has been a great advantage to us. It’s been a crazy, competitive market.

 

Solar Server: Is there anything that we haven't discussed that you would like to tell Solar Server's readers about JinkoSolar?

Arturo Herrero: There are two points that I would like to mention here. The first is that we are on track to meet our targets for both revenues and total shipments this year.

We reached the 1 GW achievement this year, which positions JinkoSolar among the top five module manufacturers. Our gross profit for Q1 2011 was approximately 26%, and if we keep a solid gross profit we will have a bit of room to be down in terms of price and capture increased market share.

The second thing I think is important to mention about JinkoSolar is that we have been doing quite well in terms of bankability. In Europe alone, we have more than 25 reputable financial institutions where our modules are bankable. This is in large part thanks to our partners, including Enfinity, Sangovan, IBC, Enel, Payom Solar and Bull Technologies. Now, our quality team in the U.S. is helping JinkoSolar to establish bankability there as well.

In addition to our strong competitive advantages and bankable modules, we are investing in strategic marketing opportunities to further expand our market share.

 

Solar Server: You seem to be doing a good job. One final question: Your factories in China are highly automated, which you don't normally hear about Chinese PV production. Can you talk about why JinkoSolar chose that path, and what this offers your company?

Arturo Herrero: Being a vertically integrated company, we try to maximize the number of our automated processes in order to eliminate mistakes due to human error. When customers visit our factory, they realize how different we are from other Chinese suppliers. Our factory houses first-class robotics, equipment and machines, and we pride ourselves in investing in technologies that will validate and test the quality of the products we deliver. Because everything is automated, we are able to test 100 percent of the cells online – leading to impeccably accurate findings.

Having a first-rate production facility from which to manufacture our modules is very important to us and we’ve imported equipment from all over the world, including Switzerland, Germany and the U.S. Our facility is comparable to factories located in California’s Silicon Valley, only we operate at much lower costs. Our exceptional manufacturing location in China provides us the competitive advantage we need, allowing us to produce high quality products at a much lower cost than that of our competitors.

 

Interview conducted on July 12th, 2011 by Christian Roselund