IHS: Chinese inverter prices declining as competition heats up

Intense competition in China has led to a 10% drop in inverters in the first quarter, according to analysts at market research group IHS.

Central inverter prices ranged between CNY 0.20 and CNY 0.28 per watt ($0.03-0.05/W) in the first quarter of 2015 while string inverter prices ranged between CNY 0.40 and CNY 0.50 per watt ($0.06-0.08/W) in the period.

Although not a huge decline given the already very low prices in China, IHS points out that the market is consolidating, with now far fewer domestic suppliers active in the Chinese market.

Dropping inverter prices was one of several trends in China’s booming PV inverter sector identified by IHS analysts in the wake of last month’s SNEC PV Power Expo in Shanghai.

String and central inverters of 1,500 V are now available or in development in the country, according IHS senior PV market analyst Cormac Gilligan. Leading inverter suppliers such as TBEA and Sungrow displayed large central inverters with 1,500 V dc inputs at the show. The inverters are targeted for export markets in the short term and are also expected to be installed in China in significant numbers in the next two years. Some suppliers are also targeting the U.S. market with 1,500 V string inverters for ground-mounted installations.

In addition, the 1 MW inverter is replacing the 500 kW model as the preferred inverter choice. Domestic suppliers such as TBEA and Sungrow have developed 1 MW inverters that will be used in a 2 MW plus turn-key solution. The new larger turn-key solutions will have the same footprint size as older 1 MW turn-key stations while lowering the price per watt and overall LCOE. Up till now, 500 kW inverters had been the preferred solution, even in multi-megawatt projects, Gilligan pointed out.

IHS also found a limited presence of non-Chinese inverter suppliers in China. Although it has predicted that China will remain the largest market globally in 2015, IHS said very few non-Chinese inverter suppliers are active in the market.

German manufacturer SMA operates in China via its acquisition of Zeversolar, but it acknowledged in its last quarterly earnings call that it would substantially reduce operations in the country. Other Western suppliers such as Kostal have recently entered the Chinese market via its automotive division but have yet to ship significant quantities of inverters in the market. IHS points out, however, that the booming market nevertheless represent a huge opportunity for non-Chinese component suppliers to inverter manufacturers.

Although the Chinese market will likely continue to boom this year, IHS says numerous Chinese inverter suppliers continue to expand operations internatioanlly, particularly in Asia and the Americas, with the United States being the prime target.

Sungrow has released new single-phase inverters that are to be shipped to new global markets such as the U.S. In Asia, TBEA is active in markets such as Pakistan and India while Omnik is gaining market share in Australia, particularly in residential systems.