The latest global PV inverter market report from IMS Research paints a mixed business environment for the sector that has more than 150 active suppliers. Although having defended reasonably well against price declines, compared to the rest of the supply chain, the market research firm is forecasting inverter sector revenues to only increase by 3% in 2012, while shipments increased nearly 25%.

“In 2012, suppliers will continue to see high shipment growth but may struggle to see top- and bottom-line growth,” commented Ash Sharma, director of the IMS Research PV practice. “Inverter prices will see another double-digit drop in 2012, partly driven by product mix change, and shifts in demand to lower cost countries, but also standard price erosion as major markets stagnate.”

The report noted that the global PV inverter market actually shrank marginally in terms of revenues in 2011, but shipments increased by more than 12%. This was a bonus for the inverter market due to an inventory overhang from the prior year.

On a regional basis, the PV inverter market in Europe is expected to continue to lose market dominance as key markets such as Germany and Italy experience PV system installation declines from 2013 onwards on the back of FiT reductions.

“Europe’s share of PV inverter shipments and revenues was over 80% in 2010; however we forecast this to fall to less than 40% in 2016 and revenues not to return to 2011 levels in the next five years. This in itself presents a huge challenge to suppliers, which are mainly European, with the majority of their facilities and customers located in that region,” added Sharma.

However, the market is still growing around the world but will become more fragmented, according to the market research firm. Global shipments of inverters are forecasted to increase at a double-digit rate over the next five years, with revenues exceeding US$9 billion by 2016.

With respect to suppliers and their market share rankings little has changed over the last few years, though market leader, SMA Solar Technology continues to see its share erode. Slight gains and losses were experienced by the other major players such as Power-One, Kaco, Fronius and RefuSOL.

According to the report, the biggest market share gainers last year were those suppliers outside of the top 10 rankings, showing that the industry may not be consolidating just yet, according to IMS Research

“Start-ups Enphase Energy and SolarEdge were two of the biggest market share gainers in 2011, whilst we also saw considerable gains from Advanced Energy and Emerson,” concluded Sharma.