Italy’s PV market had been set for a comeback in 2020, do you still see this in the cards now?
In 2019, the market grew by almost 25%. The increase in quantity came mostly after cancellation of the anti-dumping laws on module imports from China. I think from that moment in Italy, quantities began to increase.
At the beginning of this year my forecast was for big growth in the commercial sector, from 20 to 200 kW, but now for 2020 I think that this market segment will be a bit delayed, maybe we have to wait for next year now. In 2020, there will still be an increase – before coronavirus I believed there would be around 30% growth. Residential is growing primarily because of falling system prices, it is more convenient to install solar. So I think small residential will see an increase even after the coronavirus effects. The increase in Italy will be around 15%, maybe 20%. For small commercial projects, I think after Covid-19 we will experience a little delay in order to bring the sector back to where it was before the pandemic.
Why did you choose to work with Growatt as an inverter supplier? What is the value of partnerships like this one to the industry?
We are the sole representative for Growatt in Italy. So it’s a little bit of a different type of distribution. We are seeing good success in Italy, because we follow the commercial segment, we know the markets in Italy, and how to move in this kind of market. We started in 2012 with Growatt, and they are the oldest Chinese inverter brand in Italy. And we have increased volume 30% per year on average since 2012.
We don’t sell any other inverter or storage system brand. Consider that in Italy, we are Omnisun, but over the past two years we pushed ‘Growatt Italia’ a lot on social media. Now, few people know of Omnisun, everybody knows Growatt Italia. And I’m very happy about this. We choose the products to sell for the market, we take care of advertising, strategy, everything. There has been a strong cooperation with Growatt here since 2012, we may be Growatt’s oldest partner in Europe, so it’s a special relationship.
We come from the residential market, so our experience is there. And in the last few years we have moved into small commercial up to 100 kW, step by step increasing the range of Growatt products. We started with a range from 1 kW to 20 kW, now it is up to 80 kW. Enlarging the Growatt product range, we have started to work on other projects, in other areas of the market in Italy. We also started some years ago to work on larger plants, new installations, and also repowering old plants. Last year we replaced around 5 MW of inverters for older plants in the field.
What are the key requirements for inverters in the Italian market, what are customers particularly looking for?
After sales support. I think that this issue is maybe the most important one for PV products in Italy. For inverter and storage systems, the pre-sale and after sales support is the most important issue. This is one reason why Growatt is so well known in Italy.
We can provide support to all clients, from buyers to installers to EPCs. All can talk with us and know that here, in the center of Italy, there is a big team focused on helping them. We have a lot of installation partners who are very knowledgeable about our product, and we can arrive anywhere in Italy within 48 hours after the problem appears.
Growatt offers a good product with good features, and we could just sell it based on this, but one of the most important issues is the post-sale care. Installers that work with Growatt, my experience is that they never want to leave the partnership – maybe they buy others as well, but generally, who starts with Growatt continues with Growatt.
How do you see the role of energy storage in solar projects? Are most customers interested in combining PV with batteries nowadays?
We started with storage in 2016, and from that moment forward it has always increased. In Italy, Growatt represents roughly 20% of the storage market (residential, single phase). On the three phase of course there is not a huge market, residential is the main market, but storage is going to be more important for commercial as well as residential projects.
And I see Omnisun recently added an EV charger to its portfolio – how do you expect the market for this product to develop in the coming years?
The EV charger we are selling with Growatt. We are now pushing on the residential sector, and there is a big market for residential EV chargers. We have started with a residential Wallbox ranging from 3.6 to 22 kW. So in four sizes: 3.6, 7.2, 11 and 22 kW.
We have also developed an app, and now I am working to create some partnership with a software company to meet the needs of clients in Italy. In the future, early next year, we will offer EV charging with each installation. Now we are focused on the Wallbox, and to perfect the app to work with a PV system. This will be linked to the Growatt monitoring platform, as right now the apps are completely different for the PV plant and the EV charger. We are working together to link the EV charger management to the monitoring PV platform in order to, if the client wants, manage their EV charging depending on the PV production. During this year we will provide the possibility to charge whenever there is enough power on the PV side.