Inverter shipments to reach 90 GW globally by 2020, says GTM

The GTM Research Global PV Inverter and MLPE Landscape 2016 report, released today, forecasts a period of strong growth for both standard inverters and module level power electronics (MLPE) technology between now and 2020, with a slight leveling-off of shipments this year and next year.

The report reveals that 59.7 GW of inverters and MLPE were shipped last year, with the Asia-Pacific market accounting for the bulk – 66% – of that figure. As such, Chinese inverter player Huawei took top spot in terms of 2015 shipments (in MW), according to GTM, beating out fellow Chinese firm Sungrow, Germany’s SMA, Switzerland’s ABB and the Japanese supplier TMEIC, which made up the top five.

The promising outlook later this decade will arrive after two years of flat growth, GTM Research analyst Scott Moskowitz said. "Due to the U.S. utility solar ITC rush and strong demand in China, there was a buildup of shipments in 2015 to meet 2016 project demand. Overall installation growth will slow in 2017, resulting in flat inverter shipments year-over-year."

Tangible tech shift

The GTM report also notes a tangible and fundamental shift in market preferences, with central inverters set to lose market share. In 2015 central inverters accounted for 57% of all shipments, but as the trend towards three-phase string inverters grows – particularly at utility scale – GTM expects central inverters’ share of global shipments to fall to 43% by 2020.

In their stead will be string inverters as technology improvements continue to make these a compelling option for ground-mounted solar farms. For rooftops, MLPE technologies – such as power optimizers and microinverters – will continue to prove their worth and will, according to GTM, likely account for 10% of all inverter shipments by 2020.

Further trends expected by GTM include continued price declines across the entire inverter spectrum (averaging 10-12% annually through 2020), a growing acceptance and adoption of 1,500-volt inverter technology, and higher power density string inverters.

By 2020, the report concludes, the global PV inverter market will be worth more than $7.1 billion.