Solar renaissance is under way, says IHS


Market research company IHS has pointed to manufacturing capacity expansions by Canadian Solar and SunPower as further evidence its prediction of a 2014 solar renaissance was correct.

IHS said today, the recent announcement by Chinese manufacturer Canadian Solar it hopes to raise module production capacity to 3 GW to meet global demand together the news SunPower's capital expenditure expectations have doubled for the year, backs its bold predictions about the global market for solar.

IHS reiterated its prediction manufacturers will boost capital spending 42% this year to US$3.37 billion and a further 25% next year, to $4.22 billion, in an effort to meet demand after a torrid 2013.

The consultancy is also forecasting global solar installations will rise to 40-45 GW this year and, in a separate announcement today, that microinverters will play an increasingly significant role in the global inverter market.

Canadian Solar cited a planned rise in production capacity as one of the reasons behind a recent fundraising round, adding the module production capacity at its Ontario factory rose from 330 MW at the end of December to 530 MW, a month later.

U.S. company SunPower revised its capital investment expectations for this year up 90% to $150-170 million from last year's $70-90 million.

Sunny Boy will help turn the tide

IHS says the introduction of the Sunny Boy 240 microinverter to the German market dominated by SMA will help overcome resistance among installers in the country loyal to traditional string inverters.

Microinverters are gaining traction in the U.S. where they power more than 30% of sub-100 kW PV systems and where they will amount to a 1 GW market by 2017, according to IHS. But although there has been some take-up of the new technology in the UK and France, Germany – Europe's most mature solar market has stubbornly resisted.

IHS says the fact German inverter manufacturer SMA has more than 30% of its domestic market – and is a trusted brand – will help its Sunny Boy drive microinverter take-up.

Microinverter specialist Enphase Energy inched closer towards an elusive first profit in the final quarter of 2013, reporting an operating loss of less than 1% and IHS predicts it will turn a profit this year thanks to rising demand and cost savings as the company reported it improved its share of the global market 4% on the back of shipments of 335 MW last year.

IHS predicts microinverter shipments will rise an average of 40% per year up to 2017 – compared with a 13% rise for the overall inverter market – with total cumulative microinverter shipments reaching 7 GW in three years' time.

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