Inverter buyer survey: Storage seen as key

Additionally the survey also showed that the high price of microinverters was a hindrance to adoption, and that Chinese inverters are being increasingly accepted. Distributors, installers, integrators, EPCs and wholesalers were questioned. The survey was conducted to understand inverter and supplier selection criteria. The results have been published in the PV Inverter Customer Survey – World – 2013.

Storage emphasis

Respondents from Germany, Italy and the U.K. saw energy storage becoming more important as a requirement in future PV inverters. The fairly expensive price tags on storage components at the moment is also seen by the respondents as a hindrance. A reduction in battery prices to make storage more financially viable is expected to lead to wider adoption of energy storage.

More than 60% of respondents stated that the acceptable system price increase as a result of storage integration should be between 10 and 29%. Nevertheless, there were also a good 30% who stated they would willingly pay more.

"Energy storage is becoming an increasingly important feature for PV systems and if suppliers are able to deliver products in line with the industry’s expectations, the market for energy storage in PV could increase significantly over the next two years," explained Sam Wilkinson, manager power and energy research at IHS.

Microinverter price factor

Despite the proportion of customers using microinverters increasing by 10 percentage points in 2012 compared to 2011, the high prices attached to microinverters remains a barrier to adoption. The fact that these devices are able to rectify shading problems and offer additional design flexibility seem to be the main reasons why they are employed.

Wilkinson adds that because of these advantages microinverters and power optimizers are becoming more widely accepted, but price is still a major drawback. Majority of respondents stated that a price reduction of more than 50% is necessary for them to consider these components.

Chinese products gain ground

The survey further revealed that Chinese inverter products are being increasingly accepted. The percentage of respondents who believe that Chinese inverters are of an acceptable level of quality increased from 30 to 40%. The most notable increase in acceptance, more than double compared to the last survey, came from German customers. Reliability, service and warranty issues are factors that still keep some respondents from turning to Chinese inverter products.