SMA is ‘leading Western supplier’ to Japan with 1GW of inverters shipped

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SMA Solar Technology is the “leading Western supplier” of inverters to Japan, according to one analyst, with over 1GW of inverters shipped.  

The European inverter manufacturer which once held as much as a 40% share of worldwide inverter sales, announced this morning that it has passed the gigawatt “milestone” of shipments to Japan, across the country’s residential, commercial and utility-scale segments.

SMA opened its Japanese subsidiary in 2011, a year ahead of the feed-in tariff’s (FiT’s) inception. Japan’s FiT, brought in in July 2012, drove the domestic PV market to being the second biggest in the world in 2013 and 2014. In common with many other developed countries including the UK and Germany however, the FiT is now being brought down quickly, leading to speculation over how the next phase into the post-FiT era will progress, having come earlier than many in the industry had originally anticipated.

Cormac Gilligan, senior analyst in the power and technology group at IHS and specialising in inverter market tracking, said that based on cumulative inverter shipments to Japan, SMA is the leading non-Asian, or even non-Japanese supplier. In addition to inverters, SMA has also marketed its communication products and energy management systems there as well as offering consultancy services.

Gilligan said that IHS was still in the process of compiling data from Q3 2015 and so could not yet give a precise ranking for the most recent period. However, he said, other European suppliers that have shipped “significant shipments to Japan” include Schneider Electric (France) and KACO (Germany), and ABB, headquartered in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, other non-domestic suppliers such as LSIS (Korea), Delta (Taiwan), Sungrow and Huawei (both China) are “active in the market”, Gilligan said.

SMA said its commercial and residential inverters have been “specially adapted” for the Japanese market – which included meeting the high standards of certification required by JET (Japan Electrical Safety & Environment Technology Laboratories) before electrical goods can be sold in the country.

While SMA did not offer a breakdown by segment of the 1GW shipped, Cormac Gilligan at IHS said that as it can be a lengthy process to obtain JET certification at residential scale, meaning that generally, “Western suppliers have been most successful in utility-scale installations to date”. Another barrier to the domestic residential market was that Japanese customers tend to prefer local brands, with residential PV systems usually bundled and sold in kits.

This article has been amended from its original form to reflect the correct countries of origin of Schneider Electric and Delta.

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