According to the report issued by IDC Energy Insights, the "dramatic" growth of solar PV installations throughout Europe and Asia indicates that the North American utilities industry should be prepared to embrace the "PV revolution" in a demonstrably significant manner. It evaluates 10 vendors of utility-scale inverter products for the North American market, including Advanced Energy (AE), General Electric (GE), Ingeteam, KACO, PV Powered, Satcon, Schneider Electric/Xantrex, Siemens, SMA, and Solectria.
As such rapid growth often spurs new entrants, the report says it expects the "already crowded" field of vendors to multiply as new start-ups and other industrial giants recognize the opportunity. At the same time, it continues, a few market leaders will rise from the pack and start to increase their own market share as the segment matures.
"Thanks to dramatically decreasing production costs and price points, PV systems are more economical today than they ever have been," said Sam Jaffe, co-author of the report and research manager for the Distributed Energy Strategies program at IDC Energy Insights. "The three fundamental legs that support a buying decision in the inverter field are cost, efficiency, and long-term reliability. The inverter is no longer a box of wires and parts bolted onto a PV array – it has become the heart and brains of the system."
As the PV market grows, continued the report, so does the solar inverter market, averaging 30-40 percent annual growth globally over the past five years. It says that among the drivers pushing the market for large-scale solar power are ratepayer pressure to increase access to renewable sources of energy, regulatory and policy requirements, government incentives, and declining PV module costs.
Buyers have traditionally focused on the solar panel module as the differentiating piece of a PV installation. That is changing, according to IDC. Long dismissed as a "dumb box", it says the inverter has transformed itself and is fast becoming the "center of intelligence" for a typical solar photovoltaic array.