New CEO of Aleo Solar, William Chen, is driving growth of both the business and its sustainability practices, with a focus on collaborative innovation, accessible high-quality products, and a push for a more horizontal career progression for employees.

Appointed CEO of the firm in March this year, William served as Aleo Solar’s global Chief Sales Officer (CSO) from mid-2014. He first joined the Aleo Solar team in Berlin after transferring from a Vice President role with Taiwan-based Sunrise Global Solar Energy Co — a leading solar cell manufacturer and subsidiary of Sino American Silicon Products Ltd (SAS). Sunrise Global then acquired Aleo Solar in late 2014, as a sole owner.

During his time with Sunrise Global, William played an integral role in the company’s takeover of Aleo Solar. “In 2014, after almost a year of discussion with Aleo’s previous major shareholder, Bosch Group, we finalised a takeover deal and invested in Aleo Solar, acquiring the Aleo factory in Prenzlau, Germany, as well as absorbing the Aleo brand and its employees,” William says. In addition to being CSO with Aleo, William cites his time as Vice President with Sunrise Global as great preparation for the role of CEO, having been in charge of several departments overseeing areas including production, engineering, quality, supply chain, procurement, and sales.

“Sunrise Global Solar Energy produces the highest efficiency solar cells and is well known in the industry; Aleo actually started out as one of our customers in Germany,” he says. “I am very prepared for the CEO role thanks to my time with Sunrise Global. It is really just a product change for me — in Taiwan, at Sunrise Global, it was solar cells, now it is solar modules.”

Key priorities: performance and reliability of products

Aleo has been manufacturing solar panels in its native Germany since 2001, with key priorities around the performance and reliability of its products. Since inception the company has been working to promote solar on a global scale while maintaining the values of its client community.

“What we’re fighting for is simple: promoting solar as a mainstream source of energy. We’re devoted to ensuring solar panels will work for a lifetime,” says William. The variety of solar panels produced by Aleo — in partnership with affiliated organisations, research institutions and suppliers — are composed of high-efficiency monocrystalline photovoltaic cells developed by SAS. “Our collaborative work means our research and development process is twice as strong, resulting in smarter engineering, longer product lifespans, and the best-in-class performance,” William says.

When he first took over as CEO, William sought to change Aleo Solar’s working environment to ensure all employees not only understand and are passionate about the renewable energy industry, but also strive for innovative practices. “I encouraged all team members to take a step back from their usual routines and try to better understand the roles that sit outside the scope of their own job or field — to understand the whole industry that we operate in,” says William. “Transparency of our goals and accomplishments is also very important. I spend a lot of time explaining industry benchmarks and strategy to my team members so they are up to date on what we hope to achieve and how.”

From experienced executives to young solar enthusiasts straight from university, William says Aleo has assembled a team that is passionate about innovation and sustainability. “Our team has so much potential and shows a lot of initiative. With this greater understanding of our business and industry, they can adjust their efforts towards these shared goals.”

Offering bright futures to engineering graduates

Aleo also has a strong focus on employee development, including a study program and internship opportunities for engineering graduates and students wanting to break into the industry. Professional development training is also available for staff, with programs on leadership, procurement, strategic negotiation, and opportunities to attend tradeshows.

Moving forward, William hopes to continually improve synchronisation

of decision-making and operational workflows among partnering organisations to ensure all teams benefit from collaboration — the aim being to draw from each others’ strengths and developments. “Maintaining strong partnerships with our suppliers and our parent company is very important. If we have an innovative idea to develop a product, we won’t be able to do everything — we contact the key supplier or partner and we develop it together. It is not a traditional supplier–customer relationship; it’s more like a core development partnership,” William says.

Innovation is a huge area of potential growth for Aleo Solar. Its newly patented glass–glass module for façade applications is one such innovation soon to be released into the market. Already the construction and building industry is welcoming this innovative solar module, both for its architectural appeal and high functionality. This innovation comes at a time when many countries have begun to introduce regulation around renewable energy targets for new and existing buildings.

“We have already implemented our new glass–glass high-efficiency mono module and mass production will be completed soon,” William says. On a smaller scale, Aleo is also developing a ‘balcony module’ for entry-level residential solar customers to cater to the growing trend towards apartment living. It’s a small and easy-to-use module that can be set up on a balcony, allowing apartment residents to benefit from solar power.

“For long-term development, we would like to spearhead the next generation of solar technology. For example, we are currently looking into heterojunction technology,” says William. “We are leading the market in this respect because we’re always looking for the next generation of technology.

“Our motto is: ‘If you can see it in the market, we haven’t looked far forward enough’. We are not looking at it just on the research level, but are also already considering how to mass-produce and future proof it, so we’re ready to hit the ground running.”