KO Chuan Zhen, co-founder and executive director of Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd, is today a leading specialist and noted professional in the renewable energy industry.
However, his foray into the engineering field during his tertiary education years was not fuelled by interest but instead, the influence of his parents.
“My parents believed that studying engineering would guarantee a stable career and future, but I had little interest in engineering subjects at the early stage of my studies,” he said.
The final year of his degree studies marked the turn of events.
Ko’s final year project was to research and create an “Automotive Solar Powered Ventilation System – Hybrid Photovoltaic Solution”, which had him remodelling his father’s car ventilation system into a solar-powered one.
Backed by guidance from his lecturer and collaboration with his teammates, Ko created a successful prototype, before going on to win the Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) Student Project for Asia Pacific Region – setting in motion the start of an entrepreneurial journey into the solar industry.
A student exchange experience in Taiwan to work in a digital application and renewable energy laboratory further sparked Ko’s interest in the clean energy sector.
Harbouring this deep-rooted passion, Ko set foot back on home soil with one aim – to establish a leading renewable energy company in Malaysia.
Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavour, Ko was attached to some of the industry’s top global players where he amassed the necessary technical skills, leadership qualities and business networks vital towards building a successful business of his own.
Following the work attachments, he encountered an opportune time to venture into the solar industry and strike out on his own together with his best friends Poh Tyng Huei and Ryan Oh Zhi Kang.
Poh, who attended the same university as Ko, was a banker and financial professional at that time, whereas Oh, a high school friend of Ko, had been working as an electrical and hardware systems engineer in Australia.
The trio brainstormed ways to capitalise on what Ko saw would be a global rise in the clean energy trend.
At the same time, Malaysia was warming up to the solar energy bandwagon, introducing the Renewable Energy Act in 2011 and launching the Feed-in Tariff policy that popularised the uptake of solar power system installations nationwide.
Riding on this opportune timing, Ko, Poh and Oh established Leaf Energy Sdn Bhd, a solar consultancy company in 2012.
A year later, the trio saw much need for a quality turnkey solutions provider and as a result, Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd (+SOLAR) was conceived, providing end-to-end engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) services to clients.
Helmed by a four-member team back in 2013, the company has since grown to a headcount of 60 today.
Co-founder and project director Oh attributes the company’s immense growth and success to people and passion.
“Our team is made up of professionals who are passionate about renewable energy. These are engineers wanting to make a positive impact in the world through their in-depth knowledge of solar solutions. This is what makes us different,” said Oh.
As of July, +SOLAR has delivered 49MWp of solar power system in the country.
Some 90% of the company projects are from the commercial sector, including solar farms, industrial properties and commercial buildings with Green Building Index (GBI) certificates.
“We have partnered up with over 50 companies in helping them transform their energy consumption pattern, from relying on conventional methods to a cleaner, renewable source.
“A commercial building can save 10% to 70% of their operation costs after switching to solar energy, depending on the size of the building’s roof area and power consumption,” said co-founder and business director Poh.
Operations aside, the three entrepreneurs have set up an investment arm in 2015.
Through Leaf Solar Sdn Bhd, they are now the owners of two solar power plants in Kedah and Penang.
Within the same year, they established a new energy solutions company in Singapore to tap into the emerging market in South-East Asia.
As business expanded, the realisation that there exists a huge gap between local education syllabus and the demands of the clean energy sector grew.
To address this, the friends established +SOLAR Academy – a Corporate Social Responsibility programme tailored to bridge the current best-in-class practice with education institutions’ solar PV syllabus, where +SOLAR engineers impart industrial experience and the sector’s requirements to university students through conferences, talks and site visits.
“To drive the energy revolution in South-East Asia, starting with Malaysia, we need a community with the same belief as us.
We aim to reshape the way energy is generated and used, transforming all buildings into solar-powered structures. For this to happen, education is key,” said Ko.
Under this programme, +SOLAR provides industrial training to undergraduates, takes up speaking appointments with academic institutions and professional bodies, and collaborates with the academia on technical research and development.
¦ For interested business and factory owners, call 03-8994 2890 / 04-506 2300 or log on to https://plus-solar.com.my/ for more information.