Preliminary figures from IMS Research indicate that PV inverter shipments reached a new record high in 2011. According to the market research firm, shipments grew by more than 10% and exceeded 26GW for the first time. IMS Research’s preliminary Q4’11 report, projects inverter shipments grew by up to 15% in 2011, with more than 8GW shipped in the last quarter of the year.

“Germany remained the largest market, but saw shipments fall by more than a quarter in 2011. This was because of the very high inventory levels in the country at the start of the year as customers sat on high stocks of string inverters. Although many of these inverters were subsequently re-exported to other markets or returned to manufacturers, underlying demand was still not high enough and saw shipment sink considerably,” commented senior research director Ash Sharma.

A problem last year had been a huge industry-wide inventory build that included inverters. However, IMS Research believes that despite significant regional variations, inventory levels were back inline with demand or at least to ‘normal’ levels.

“Inventory levels have greatly reduced in Europe, with inverters being re-exported from Germany, especially those not compliant with the new low-voltage directive requirements. However, inventory levels are understood to have increased considerably in the USA and Asia. In the USA this was caused by customers stock-piling large volumes of inverters ahead of the expiration of the 1603 program. These inverters will of course now be installed in 2012,” added Sharma.

On a regional basis the German market was said to have performed poorly in 2011, though regions such as China outperformed with shipments of nearly 3GW. The American market was said to have achieved shipments of close to 4GW. 

The IMS report also found that whilst both Italy and the UK drove high inverter shipment growth, this was not enough to prevent the European market from falling in 2011. In total IMS Research estimates shipments grew by up to 15% globally in 2011 but revenues were flat in US Dollar terms and slightly down in Euros.