‘The market share of Chinese manufacturers will increase, but the high-quality inverters will remain in European hands'
Solarplaza recently published a Top 10 of the most efficient solar PV central inverters (100kW). We decided we wanted to learn more about the inverter industry and therefore talked to some key players: SMA and Ingeteam. We spoke about the global solar PV inverter industry, new inverter technologies and the biggest solar PV inverter markets.
By Floris Rietveld, Solarplaza
Key Words: Technology and Innovation
The global solar inverter market is very much technology-driven. That is why the quality of the inverters is such an important part of the business. "To increase the energy harvest and thus the return on investment, it is paramount to use cutting-edge technology", according to Susanne Henkel of SMA. Inverter technology today is highly developed and the efficiency levels are already up to 99%, which is close to the physical limit. The highest quality, efficiency and longevity are the most important factors for this high-tech device. All three factors go hand in hand, according to the major inverter manufacturers SMA and Ingeteam.
Inverter manufacturers are therefore focussing on upcoming future trends such as grid stabilization and self-consumption. Both topics are becoming increasingly important. The European manufacturers' years of experience in power electronics will enhance their international expansion, but the Asian inverter manufacturers are catching up. The market share of Chinese inverter manufacturers will increase, according to Raphael Henkel of Ingeteam, but the high quality inverters will remain in European hands because of their many years of experience in the power electronics.These new innovations and technology developments are the major thresholds for new players in the market, according to Susanne Henkel of SMA: "A high speed of innovation, the broad required product spectrum, service quality and a worldwide presence are major thresholds for new players who want to enter the PV market."
The inverter is the centre of gravity in intelligent management systems. It takes on more and more energy management functions and is integral to grid integration of PV energy. "Therefore, there will be an even higher speed in development and innovation in the future", says Susanne Henkel. Raphael Henkel expects a trend in the coming years towards central inverters. Most interesting will be the turnkey options – power stations with inverters and transformers ready for grid connection.
Growing Inverter Markets
The worldwide photovoltaic market has experienced rapid growth over the past years, but this growth declined in 2011. The amount of newly installed global PV capacity is around 23 gigawatts, which is approximately the same as in 2010. "We are expecting only moderate growth in the global PV market in 2012, but at the same time we cannot rule out a slight market decline", says Susanne Henkel. The development forecast from Raphael Henkel of Ingeteam is more positive. More and more countries are showing interest in inverter manufacturers. He is seeing an increased demand from South America, India and South Africa. "Soon it will be possible to finish projects without subsidies. There are already regions where Feed-in Tariffs are no longer necessary. For example, in the Atacama Desert in Chile the production of solar energy is currently feasible without tariffs."
Germany is still one of the largest and most stable markets worldwide. According to Susanne Henkel from SMA, foreign markets have seen uneven growth in 2011, with strong growth momentum coming from regions such as North America and India. Nevertheless, Italy and Germany will remain the most important markets, according to Raphael Henkel of Ingeteam. He sees Eastern Europe and Switzerland as the upcoming markets within Europe.
New Mega Trends: Energy Storage and Smart Grid
Energy storage will become increasingly important in the photovoltaic solar industry. But without the intelligent integration of new energy storage systems, the energy transition towards a decentralized supply from renewable sources will be impossible, according to SMA. They are already working on topic of the future and expect to present innovative solutions within this area soon.
The long-term outlook for the solar PV sector is looking bright. This energy transition will require new information and communication technology (SMART Grid). Energy demand and supply will become less predictable and will therefore require innovative storage technologies and forecast instruments. These megatrends will require an even higher speed of innovation. This trend will accelerate the shakeout process for the industry.
See the full Top 10 list of the most efficient central inverters (100 kW) and the link to the completer Top 20 here: http://solarplaza.com/top10-inverters-100kw-efficiency/