Micro-Inverters Still Struggling To Gain Market Traction Due To Price, Tech Immaturity

Use of disruptive technologies in the PV inverter industry grew strongly in 2010, with shipments of micro-inverters and power optimizers growing by well over 500%. However, these technologies still accounted for less than 1% of PV inverter revenues, according to IMS Research's latest report on this emerging market.

Most shipments have so far been limited to only a few suppliers, such as Enphase and SolarEdge, which have seen success in the micro-inverter and DC-DC power optimizer markets, respectively. But there are now more than 20 suppliers now known to be active, and many more in stealth mode. The market is forecast to more than double on average every year to 2015, IMS Research says.

The market for micro-inverters and power optimizers is forecast to be worth over $1.3 billion in 2015. Then, prices for these disruptive technologies are predicted to be considerably lower than they are today, with the benefits of volume production achieved through original equipment manufacturer agreements.

However in 2015, it is forecast that micro-inverter average prices will still be close to 50% higher than those of conventional inverters, limiting their penetration to only 6% of the market, IMS Research adds.

The report predicts that the growing supplier base and decreasing prices of the two disruptive technologies will drive growth. ‘Disruptive technologies such as micro-inverters and power optimizers claim to offer many benefits including greater yield, easier installation and improved safety and monitoring,’ says Tom Haddon, PV market analyst at IMS Research and co-author of the report. ‘But currently, their higher prices and relative immaturity in the marketplace has restricted uptake, especially in non-residential installations.

‘Uptake of micro-inverters, in particular, has been very slow outside of North America with installers in Europe still more confident in using string inverters,’ Haddon adds.

IMS Research found that although the market is still incredibly young, several factors are likely to either enhance adoption of the technology or hinder it. A number of micro-inverter and power optimizer suppliers are known to be in active partnership discussions with module suppliers to provide module-integrated solutions.

It is predicted that 45% of micro-inverters and 40% of power optimizers will be shipped in combination with a module in 2015.

‘By partnering with module suppliers, micro-inverter and power optimizer suppliers gain access to a huge customer base and an established sales channel, present a better price proposition to customers, and also offer product differentiation to module suppliers,’ Haddon says.

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