Germany-based SMA retained its position as the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) inverter supplier in 2015, maintaining the company’s 14% share of global PV inverter revenue it held in 2014, according to a new report from IHS Inc. However, the report notes SMA has been challenged to keep its market position following the decline of the European solar market, and competitors are gaining on the company.
“In maintaining a flat market share compared to 2014, SMA ended five consecutive years of market share declines,” explains Cormac Gilligan, research manager of IHS Technology “A major contributor to SMA’s improved performance was its large market share in the U.S. and other high-growth utility-scale markets. The company also updated its inverter portfolio, which meant it had a competitive offering in residential, commercial and utility-scale and other major segments of the market. However, several suppliers also made significant market-share gains, in particular, Huawei, Solaredge and Sungrow, all of which became top-five suppliers in 2015.”
According to the report, Chinese suppliers grew substantially on the back of booming demand in the country’s domestic market. Shipments to the world’s largest PV market exceeded installations by a significant margin, as inverters were shipped ahead of strong installation activity continuing into the first half of 2016. Having carried out extensive data checks with Chinese suppliers, IHS estimates that shipments reached 22 GW.
The report says Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, became the largest supplier worldwide in megawatt-shipments in 2015. The company has been highly aggressive in promoting the use of its three-phase, low-power inverters in the utility-scale segment, and it was able to secure a significant share of its domestic market, as well as 9% share of global revenue. Another Chinese company, Sungrow, also benefited from rapid growth in its domestic market, maintaining a significant market share and enabling the company to increase its global market share. As a result, it was ranked as the largest three-phase, high-power inverter supplier in 2015 for a third consecutive year.
With growth in the Chinese domestic market expected to slow in 2016, due to uncertainties around future incentive levels and grid-connection and payment delays that are likely to stifle demand, Chinese suppliers are increasingly focused on more profitable export markets. They are also continuing to gain acceptance in international markets, where they have struggled in the past due to concerns over quality, reliability and after-sales service. For the first time in 2015, both Sungrow and Huawei exceeded 1 GW of PV inverter exports; Sungrow was the largest Chinese exporter in 2015.
Revenue share for Israeli company Solaredge climbed three percentage points, to reach 6% in 2015.
“This milestone was largely aided by its success in winning over major customers in U.S. residential and small commercial markets,” comments Gilligan.
Japanese company Omron led the global single-phase market in megawatt-shipments in 2015 for the third year in a row, thanks almost exclusively to its large market share in its domestic residential market.
Gilligan says, “As the Japanese residential market is forecast to decrease, Omron and other Japanese manufacturers are becoming increasingly focused on expanding into new international markets, in order to safeguard against further market share declines” .
In the utility-scale market, the report continues, TMEIC, Schneider Electric, ABB, GE and other large industrial suppliers could expand rapidly into new markets and make inroads into SMA’s business by offering compatible central inverters with 1,500 volt technology.
“In the solar world, bankability and a wide geographical footprint are increasingly important,” says Gilligan. “These types of suppliers can provide both.”