Small Three-Phase Inverters Projected To Continue Growth

The highest demand for PV inverters this year will come from both the smallest and the largest three-phase inverters, according a recently released report on the market from IMS Research. Shipments of inverters rated below 35 kW and above 500 kW are growing nearly 50% faster than the rest of the market.

The PV inverter market has achieved remarkable growth in the past few years, overcoming the collapse of the Spanish market to produce record shipments in 2009 – a feat set to be broken again in 2010 with close to 17 GW of shipments, IMS Research says. This growth has attracted many new entrants to the market, especially suppliers already active in similar markets.

However, although these suppliers have transferred their expertise in high power and produced large central inverters, it is the smaller three-phase products that are predicted to capture a greater share in the short term.

IMS Research's recently published report has revealed that shipments of small three-phase inverters rated around 10 kW to 20kW are forecast to grow by around 170% this year. Inverters rated at over 500 kW are projected to grow at a similar rate but will capture a smaller share of the market.

In the longer-term, however, much faster growth is predicted for these larger inverters, with utility-scale installations emerging rapidly – although, due to their inherently lower price per watt, these inverters will still only account for 10% of revenues in 2014, the report says.

‘Recently, demand for PV inverters in commercial installations appears to be splitting into two clear categories: very small three-phase products or very large central inverters,’ says Tom Haddon, PV research analyst at IMS. ‘While mid-sized central inverters offer a lower initial investment cost, shipments of inverters in the 10 kW to 20 kW range have increased massively in 2010, with a range of new models being released by major suppliers such as SMA, Kaco, SolarMax and Power-One.

‘These products offer greater system design flexibility, easier installation and higher energy yields, and also better grid integration – a crucial factor, given the medium-voltage directive and reactive power legislation in Germany,’ Haddon adds.

Although it is forecast that these units will lose some market share to larger central inverters in the longer term as the emerging markets of the U.S., India and China drive demand for megawatt-sized substations, in the medium term, smaller three-phase models are forecast to be one of the prime revenue generators, as their adaptable nature can be applied to installations ranging from small commercial to multi-megawatt utility-scale installations.      Â

SOURCE: IMS Research

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