Weak inverter demand expected

Global photovoltaic inverter revenues are calculated to have hit USD$1.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010 which, although representing a 30 percent year-on-year increase, is a 24 percent decline on the third quarter. In total, 20 gigawatts of inverters were shipped in 2010.

Despite the fact overall shipments remained "robust", the fourth quarter experienced a substantial fall. Factory-gate prices were also said to have decreased in the period by four percent.

Going forward, IMS believes a decline in both inverter shipments and revenues will be experienced in the first two quarters of this year, due to low European demand and high inventory levels – several gigawatts are said to be being held throughout the supply chain.

"Despite the sequential decline, more than 20 GW of inverters were shipped in 2010 – a staggering amount in light of the component shortage that blighted the industry in the first half of the year," comments Ash Sharma, PV research director at IMS Research.

Diminishing dominance

IMS’ report also revealed that Germany is losing ground in the inverter market. According to Sharma, its share has been steadily declining. "Germany’s share of inverter shipments has fallen steadily over the past five quarters as other international markets have taken off," he explains.

He adds that in the fourth quarter of 2009, the country accounted for more than half of all inverter shipments. However, by the fourth quarter of last year, this share had fallen to 35 percent.

The research company goes on to say that the biggest "market share loser" in 2010 was SMA Solar Technology which, despite doubling its sales, shed five percentage points.

IMS’ research is based on actual sales and shipment data from 35 of the largest photovoltaic inverter suppliers.