Global inverter shipments to grow just 2% in 2018

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Last Friday, U.S.-based GTM Research announced that 2017 saw a record 98.5 GWac of solar PV inverters shipped, up 23% on 2016, on the back of the strong growth seen in China.

“GTM’s predictions for the inverter market were completely upended by the massive growth in the Chinese market in 2017. While the U.S. and Japan did decline, the Chinese market exploded to install 50 GWdc of solar. This resulted in over 100 GWdc of installations globally and 98.5 GWac of inverter shipments,” Scott Moskowitz, senior analysts, solar research tells pv magazine.

This year, he forecasts growth of just 2%, to 100.5 GWac. This is similar to IHS Markit, which expects up to 104 GWac of shipments.

GTM Research further reported that, like 2016, Huawei, Sungrow, SMA and ABB led the 2017 rankings. Moskowitz adds that in terms of revenues, however, the top five vendors comprised Huawei, SMA, Sungrow, SolarEdge, and ABB.

This is the first time SMA has been knocked off the top revenue spot; although it was kicked to second place in the shipment rankings by Huawei in 2015. Sungrow, meanwhile, has also overtaken SolarEdge for the first time, in the revenue race.

Commenting on what trends the 2018 inverter market can expect to see, Moskowitz says, “The key trends in the solar inverter market have now persisted for each of the past five years. The top vendors continue to gain share. String inverters continue to gain steam in utility solar markets. 1,500 volts continues to become more popular. We expect these trends to last through the next several years.”

GTM Research also reported that three-phase string inverter shipments exceeded those of central inverters last year. Asked what the significance of this was, Moskowitz says, “String inverter shipments exceeding central inverter shipments is both a snapshot of the current market and a look into the future.

“As a snapshot, it is a result of the size of the Chinese market and the success of Huawei. As a long-term trend, it is proof of sophistication in the market and increasing power densities of solar inverters. We expect string inverters to gain additional share over the next several years, particularly in the U.S. and Latin America.”