Global PV inverter market shakeout and geographical shifts expected, says GTM

Overall, shifts in global demand will continue to afflict photovoltaic inverter suppliers. Another factor playing an increasing role is the commercialization of advanced technologies such as module-level power electronics (MLPE).

In light of the current weak solar market situation and product overcapacity, margins will continue to collapse this year. With respect to the average photovoltaic inverter prices, the downward trend will persist. In 2012, the price was at US$0.22 per watt and it’s estimated to decrease to just $0.14 per watt in 2016, thus representing an annual reduction of 10%.

Throughout 2012, major markets continued to work off channel inventory and falling markets further stagnated shipments in Europe. Looking ahead, GTM Research forecasts additional shipments to come online in major growth markets like China, Japan and the U.S.

By 2014, the report sees a consolidation of the inverter market, as struggling inverter suppliers exit the market. Emerging markets will dictate the course of 2015 and 2016, and GTM expects shipments to boom in these markets.

Furthermore, GTM Research’s report, titled "The global PV inverter landscape 2013: technologies, markets, and survivors", included a top ten of photovoltaic inverter companies. The ranking was based on variables such as product offering, bankability, and growth prospect alignment.

Top 10 photovoltaic inverter companies (GTM Research):

  1. SMA
  2. Power-One
  3. Schneider Electric
  4. SunGrow
  5. Advanced Energy (REFUsol)
  6. ABB
  7. TMEIC
  8. KACO New Energy
  9. ABB
  10. Fronius

Although incumbent photovoltaic inverter manufacturers still remain at the front of the market, low-cost players from Asia and well-capitalized giants are gaining ground. "While SMA continues to dominate the rankings, near-term growth will be challenging as it competes with new low-cost or well-capitalized suppliers," said MJ Shiao, senior analyst at GTM Research.

"In conjunction with a demand market that is rapidly shifting to new geographies, these stringent barriers will force incumbent firms toward restructuring, mergers & acquisitions or obsolescence," he added.

These changes are already playing out with the recent liquidation of Satcon Technology, divestments by Diehl Controls and Siemens, as well as strategic acquisitions by SMA (Zeversolar) and Advanced Energy (REFUsol).

Meanwhile, the report also includes a future outlook of MLPE technology. Suppliers have seen demand for micro-inverter and DC optimizer technologies increase exponentially, rising from just 51 MW in 2009 to over 785 MW in 2012. While much of the sales have come from residential systems, small and large commercial applications are also joining the fray.

Enphase, SolarEdge and Tigo are the three companies accounting for over 93% of the market share of shipments and installations. Enecsys, SolarBridge, Petra Solar are also present, but they are much further behind in their sales.

However, according to the report, a "significant shakeup" in the rankings is expected as traditional inverter companies like SMA and Power-One continue to develop and promote their own MLPE products.