GTM: Microinverter and optimiser market to increase fivefold

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The global solar microinverter and DC optimiser market is set to increase fivefold by 2017, according to a report from analysts GTM Research.

GTM estimates shipments of so-called module-level power electronics (MLPE) equipment will surpass 5GW by 2017, up from 1.1GW in 2013.

Throughout last year more than 1GW of MPLE was installed, adding to a cumulative total of more than 2GW installed capacity in 2013.

MPLE products include DC power optimisers, used to optimise the energy harvested from PV panels, and microinverters, used to increase yield on (mainly residential) systems, by installing one inverter per panel, rather than one string inverter to an array.

The report singles out 2014 as being a landmark year for MPLE products, with the market predicted to take off and grow fivefold by 2017.

GTM calls the predicted soar in MPLE products a “second chapter” in the market, after the “first chapter”, starting four years ago. GTM has said companies are now advocating installer operational throughput, design flexibility, cost reductions in labour and electrical balance of systems.

Hitherto the market has been dominated by three major companies – Enphase Energy, SolarEdge Technologies and Tigo Energy edging in third. These three companies accounted for 88% of shipping in 2013. “A new gang of well-funded competitors are entering the space to challenge the three established firms,” said GTM research marketing manager, Mike Munsell.

MPLE products first entered the market just four years ago; they have expanded from solely catering for residential, to commercial scale.

GTM said that in the “first chapter”, MPLE market entrants advertised an increase in energy yield, improvement of system reliability, and granular monitoring – though many suffered restructuring and bankruptcy.

“The companies of four years ago would not recognise the companies of today,” said report author and consultant, Paul Grana, explaining large cost reductions and companies selling “a broader and much more compelling value proposition” had boosted the market. “The sector has grown from a small niche to shipping more than a gigawatt per year,” added Grana.

According to GTM, new companies, many private or with significant capital backing, are now stepping into the market. In distribution optimisation markets alone (accounting for 2.5% of overall PV markets), more than US$600 million had been invested at the end of 2013.

The report also cites the increase in fully integrated AC modules and smart modules are entering the market, increasing the amount of module manufacturers entering MPLE product markets. Module manufacturers will have a significant impact on the MPLE market up to 2017.

MJ Shiao, director of solar research at GTM Research, said the “untapped opportunity” for installers and investors to reduce overall PV system and operational costs by focusing on balance of system costs, microinverters and DC optimisers, will see shipments “increasing fivefold and revenues from MLPE sales more than doubling by 2017”. He predicted the US, UK, Germany, and Australia will continue to “embrace and expand” MPLE products.

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