China's shifting solar landscape driving inverter product mix, says IHS

Analysis by IHS of the Chinese solar landscape has revealed that ongoing grid-connection problems, allied to a government push to diversify the types of PV installations completed around the country, is helping to diversify the product mix of inverters.

The analysis firm found that China installed some 18.6 GW of new solar PV capacity in 2015, which was above the official National Energy Administration (NEA) figure of 15.1 GW connected to the grid. Because of long grid-connection delays, many completed projects were not able to connect in 2015, and it is estimated that 4.5 GW of systems have been carried over into 2016.

According to IHS, the number of installed but non-connected systems increased greatly last year, forcing gigawatt-scale projects to relocate from Ningxia to nearby provinces this year due to the heightened potential for power curtailment.

These bottlenecks are driving a shift in the types of inverters being shipped throughout China, IHS finds. Last year Chinese inverter shipments hit a record 22.8 GW, of which 7.5 GW were write-down and channel inventory. The excess figure – more inverters than GW connected – means that all inverters will be installed but not necessarily allowed to connect, at least not immediately.

As market consolidation deepens (the top six Chinese suppliers – Huawei, Sungrow, TBEA, Sineng, Chint and KStar – took 95% of the market), the product mix is changing more quickly, with three-phase low power inverters (less than 99 kW) becoming the second-largest inverter product type after central inverters. Huawei in particular has been proactive in using such inverters in large-scale solar farms.

The government, meanwhile, is seeking to ease grid-connection problems at large scale by supporting commercial and residential installations – the latter via poverty relief PV projects. As this transition accelerates, more and more three-phase and string inverters will be added to the mix, IHS concludes.