GlobalData: Solar PV inverters market to decline at annual rate of 13.2 percent by 2023

Global Data inverter market

The global solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters market is set to decline at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2% and reach $3.04 billion in 2023, primarily due to a sharp drop in inverter prices and slowdown in solar PV installations, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s latest report, ‘Solar PV Inverters, Update 2019 – Global Market Size, Competitive Landscape, Key Country Analysis, and Forecast to 2023’, reveals that competitive market, economies of scale and removal of subsidies are forcing manufacturers to restructure their prices to retain businesses in a highly fragmented market.

Asia-Pacific (APAC) accounted for approximately 71% of the inverters installed globally in 2018, followed by the Americas with 16.5% and EMEA with 12.5%. Despite the contraction in its market share, APAC is expected to dominate the market over the forecast period (2019–2023), supported by trends in China, India and Japan.

Globally, China is the largest market for solar PV inverters. The aggressive pursuit of solar by the country led to significant capacity additions over the historic period (2014–2018), with 44.3 gigawatt (GW) installed in 2018 alone.

“However, the market is expected to slow down significantly with the government opting to reduce solar subsidy for utility scale projects and feed-in-tariffs,” says Nirushan Rajasekaram, Power Analyst for GlobalData. “The market size in China is estimated to decline at a CAGR of 10.1%, over the forecast period. Similarly the reduction in feed-in-tariffs and limited scope for expansion of large projects will see the market in Japan decline to 5.4GW in 2023.”

The U.S. market leads the way

By 2023, the solar PV inverter markets in Americas and EMEA will expand to 21.3% and 19.6%, respectively of global installations. The Amercias market is greatly influenced by movements in the U.S. market. It is the second largest market for solar PV inverters in the world and is supported by federal and state initiatives such as Sunshot initiative, federal tax credits, net metering and state issued renewable energy goals. The US market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 2.8% to reach 12.8 GW in 2023.

The emergence of supportive policies and regulations to increase solar energy deployment in other countries will propel the solar PV inverter market in Americas. Solar PV is expected to be ramped up in EMEA, particularly in the Middle East driven by government targets and policies encouraging uptake of solar.

Rajasekaram concludes: “The slowdown in prominent markets will have a moderate impact on the global outlook for solar PV inverters. With renewables becoming integral in governments’ development plans, solar PV will be the mainstay in the drive towards deploying renewables. Opportunities in emerging markets will arise due to a decline in technology prices and strong support for solar PV to compensate to a certain extent for the drop in installations among leading markets. Competition and evolving market conditions are exerting pricing pressures on manufacturers, driving down inverter prices. Improvement in manufacturing efficiencies and scale of economy will translate into steeper decline in inverter costs for utility scale projects, in comparison to other consumer segments.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Ginlong Solis inverters added to Loanpal approved vendor list

ginlong solis

Ginlong Solis‘entire line of Solis Residential Inverters and accessories have been added to the Approved Vendor List (AVL) of Loanpal. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewable has ranked Loanpal as the second largest residential solar loan provider in the U.S with a 20% market share in that space in 2018.

Ginlong Solis offers a one-stop-shop for PV string inverters sold into the residential, commercial and utility solar market. In 2018, Solis released its new Customer Service Program, providing advanced metrics, ticket tracking, automated RMA submission, and an AI Chat Bot to answer questions 24/7. Ginlong Solis is now listed on the SZSE Stock Exchange after a successful IPO.

Loanpal details

Loans are now the dominant residential solar financing option in the US, outperforming third party-owned solar sales in 2018 and Loanpal, founded as Paramount Equity Mortgage ($27 Billion in total loan volume), is now the third-largest residential financier in the U.S., after Sunrun and Mosaic.

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Part of the reason Loanpal has jumped to this position after just 15 months in the market is the Loanpal proprietary finTech Platform. Loanpal is focused on the financial piece of the solar purchase and does not install PV systems. The company’s finTech platform serves as a “connective tissue between banks, clean energy system installers and homeowners”. Loanpal’s growing solar installer networks may give them an advantage over traditional loan providers that may get into this space in the coming years.

Woods MacKenzie noted that Loanpal “has the backing of a large mortgage company and the expertise from several seasoned industry executives, which gives them clout”. Loanpal has found a way to roll clean energy loans into the customer’s mortgage and customers can avoid making two separate payments. Loanpal offers zero-down financing and virtually instant loan approvals, sort of like a PayPal for PV systems.

— Solar Builder magazine

The Fronius Symo Advanced inverter is the first to achieve SunSpec Rapid Shutdown Certification

Fronius symo

The Fronius Symo Advanced is the first inverter on the market to receive the official SunSpec Rapid Shutdown certification, according to the Indiana-based inverter manufacturer and the SunSpec Alliance. The three-phase inverter comes with an integrated Power Line Communication (PLC) transmitter based on the SunSpec Rapid Shutdown communication standard.

What’s this mean?

The SunSpec Certified program for Rapid Shutdown (RSD) verifies compliance to the SunSpec Communication Signal for Rapid Shutdown Functional Specification to meet the requirement established by National Electrical Code (NEC) 2017. 29 members of the SunSpec Alliance defined an open industry standard for communication between modules, inverters and string combiners to support module level rapid shutdown requirements.

This multi-vendor industry standard went through 34 iterations and was published in September of 2017.

“Adoption of the SunSpec Rapid Shutdown specification is continuing to mature,” said Thomas Tansy, Chairman, SunSpec Alliance. “The foundation was set by a large quorum of solar industry firms dedicating time to the development of a SunSpec open source communications interface to meet NEC 2017 requirements. Firms have moved product into the market with the RSD spec incorporated on a compliant basis. The next maturation phase is now underway with the Fronius product certification. SunSpec Certified Rapid Shutdown is a strong signal to installers, first responders and local authorities that solar power systems with this mark meet NEC 2017 communications requirements.”

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Fronius has been a driving force in developing this industry standard and was among the first ones to announce a product based on the standard. “We are excited to offer the first inverter that is officially certified for SunSpec Rapid Shutdown,” Richard Baldinger, Head of Marketing at Fronius USA says. “We believe in driving industry standards and supporting industry innovation to drive down cost and allow customer choice.”

In conjunction with SunSpec based components such as the Tigo TS4-F module-level electronics, solar installers get a simple and cost-effective solution for Module Level Shutdown. Featuring ten models ranging from 10 kW to 24 kW, the Fronius Symo Advanced is the ideal compact three-phase inverter for commercial applications. The light weight design, the SnapINverter mounting system and true field-serviceability allow for easy installation and highest reliability over the lifetime of a system.

— Solar Builder magazine

Seven trends from our 2019 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide

CPS remote fleet commissioning

Commercial inverter manufacturers like CPS America are easing installation and O&M with remote fleet commissioning.

We asked every inverter manufacturer to tell us about their latest and greatest products for our 2019 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide. What came back was a range of innovations from the most powerful microinverter on the market to the latest utility-scale string technology. At this point, solar inverter spec sheets all seem fairly comparable. The real differentiators come in monitoring and service options, storage capabilities and grid functionality.

Future proofing

The move to incorporate storage is being driven more and more by a combo of improved battery economics and utility rate changes. The symbiotic pairing with solar is just too hard to ignore.

“Residential PV installations are including batteries more and more often, especially in places like Hawaii where exporting PV power is often not allowed and in California where time-of-use rates shift the value of electricity more into the evening,” says Paul Dailey, director of product management for OutBack Power. “Additionally, existing PV customers in areas with frequent power outages are asking for retrofit backup systems.”

“Utility companies around the country are killing net metering and thus grid-tie-only inverters,” says Tom Brennan, engineering manager at Sol-Ark. “They want to charge three times what they will pay out for the solar power produced. The only solution is solar + storage to keep what is produced, consume it at night and use the grid as backup to solar. ”

Today most off-grid systems are still installed using lead-acid batteries. They are proven and cost effective, but less efficient, and over the long-term lithium has economic advantages. A growing number of off-grid systems are installing LiFePO4 lithium batteries as an alternative to both wet and advanced (gel, AGM) lead-acid. Although this type of battery initially is more expensive than lead-acid, over the long run they can be more economical due to high cycle life and superior storage capabilities.

“Perhaps most importantly, lithium batteries can operate without being fully charged and can actually do better when they are not held at a very high state of charge for long periods, unlike lead-acid batteries,” says Mark Cerasuolo, director of marketing at Morningstar, which just debuted a new off-grid-focused solar + storage inverter for the lithium battery age. “Therefore, residential off-grid customers never need to worry about running their generator to top off the batteries like they have in the past, further reducing the run time of their generators — and drastically lowering fuel and maintenance costs, as well as noise and emissions. System operators that use lithium batteries report fuel savings of 75 percent and more compared to running a generator for prime power.”

CPS separable wireboxes

Commercial inverter manufacturers like CPS America are easing installation and O&M with separable wireboxes.

EV and smart home upgrades

Less talked about, but possibly more relevant countrywide, is an inverter’s flexibility to incorporate electric vehicle charging.

“This is particularly relevant to the PV market as we see a significant overlap between the EV and PV target market,” says Lior Handelsman, co-founder, VP of marketing and product strategy with SolarEdge. “With many homes expected to have an EV in the coming years, it makes sense for anyone installing a PV system to install an EV charging inverter or at least an EV-ready inverter.”

SolarEdge is taking another strategic step by transitioning its inverters into comprehensive smart energy managers.

“Consumers do not just want to place solar energy on their roof and then forget about it; they want to control how they use their energy,” he says. “Since the inverter already manages solar production, energy storage, grid interaction and consumption, it is well positioned to evolve into the home’s smart energy manager. By integrating smart energy verticals into the inverter hardware and firmware, such as our EV charging solar inverter, installers and homeowners alike receive more value.”

SolarEdge EV charger/solar inverter

SolarEdge offers the only EV charger/solar inverter on the market.

You are buying service, support

More than ever, commercial inverter manufacturers are focusing on improving the user experience with installer friendly designs, improved user interfaces and more effective customer service.

“Installer friendly features like lifting handles and a spacious wiring box allow electricians to install the product safely and in a time-efficient manner,” says Michael Nieman, senior applications engineer for Yaskawa Solectria Solar.

Integrated fused combiner and AC/DC disconnects also streamline the installation process.

String inverters keep scaling up

As the industry has matured, the drawbacks of central inverters — a larger footprint, expensive maintenance contracts, higher O&M expenses, large sections of arrays suffering from downtimes, etc. — have become more apparent. For these reasons, decentralized architecture with string inverters and module-level optimization has been gaining market share in the commercial PV sector in recent years.

But even if actual central inverters are less popular, deploying string inverters on a skid for a more centralized design architecture still makes sense for some sites.

“The design architecture of a site can make a big difference in EBOS cost,” says Ed Heacox, GM at CPS America. “Sometimes a distributed approach is better, other times centralized makes better financial sense. Evaluate the different designs using your actual costs to determine which method is best for the project and site. Beyond the initial financial implications of these two architectures is the O&M aspect. For very large sites, a centralized design can streamline O&M by clustering the inverters in one or more groups.”

More connectivity needs more security

The increased quantity of smaller inverters has made inverter communications even more integral to effective plant commissioning and control. This means simplicity, but also an increased focus on cyber security.

“We engineered our new XGI 1000 and XGI 1500 inverter lines with security baked in, not layered on,” says Emily Hwang, applications engineering manager at Yaskawa Solectria Solar. “While on-site, users can view inverter information from their smart device via WPA2 encryption. The user interface is password protected and can limit the accessibility of control parameters to only qualified individuals. In addition, each inverter comes equipped with a firewall and uses SSL encryption to ensure that the connection between web server and browser remain secure.”

The YSS team is also promoting the idea of hardware security, believing it is important to have inverter lines engineered and manufactured in the U.S.

OutBack is taking a standards-based approach to communications and data security, working with the SunSpec Alliance, IEEE and other standards bodies to ensure that our platforms are secure while remaining interoperable with the devices and parties they legitimately need to share data with.

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Approaches to Phase 3 vary

Rule 21 Phase 3 is all about allowing utilities and grid operators to leverage many of the grid supporting and communication requirements developed in previous phases. While the exact requirements and date for Rule 21 Phase 3 are still TBD, eight functions have been recommended by the Smart Inverter Working Group to be included in Rule 21 as mandatory or optional capabilities for all inverter-based DER systems.

“Installers should become familiar with the implementation schedule and ensure that they are specifying products that can meet the requirements. Otherwise, they may be denied interconnection,” Dailey says.

Similar to Phase 1, testing and certification requirements will be needed before Phase 3 functions can have mandatory implementation requirements. Mandatory implementation requirements typically begin 12 months after approval of testing and certification requirements.

“Manufacturers will ship inverters with functions left in a default state. Installers should be prepared for the need to implement specific settings and/or functions on a site or project specific basis. The local utilities and grid operators may request modification to the settings that would require the installer to adjust during commissioning,” Nieman notes.

For Rule 21 Phase 3, SolarEdge is providing an expanded feature set for smart inverters like data monitoring, remote connection/disconnection and max power controls.

“These will start to become the new industry standard,” Handelsman says. All SolarEdge inverters sold in California will be certified for IEEE 2030.5, while already shipped SolarEdge inverters can be updated for compliance.

While this is a necessary step for onboarding an abundance of distributed PV onto our grid, at least one inverter manufacturer fundamentally disagrees with Phase 3 because of the economic implications for individual solar + storage systems.

“Utilities want to reprogram your inverter and use your batteries at any time to support power surges,” Brennan says. “Not sure what they will pay you for it, if anything. And there is also the potential for cyber hacking of the system. Sol-Ark is just not a fan.”

The U.S. veteran team of engineers at Sol-Ark may have considered security more than any other manufacturer in the building of its inverter hardware from the standpoint that it can survive solar flares or an EMP attack. What is Sol-Ark doing for cyber security? “We unplug the Wi-Fi connection,” Brennan says. “That is the ultimate security.”

Partnerships add value

Being the connective hub of a system puts inverter companies in position to come up with cool partnerships that streamline costs, improve performance and introduce new user-facing functionality. Here’s some examples.

CPS is the first inverter company that also has a bankable, large scale PV module offering. CPS’ sister company is Astronergy, a Bloomberg Tier 1 rated PV panel provider. CPS is able to bundle PV panels and inverters — orders, delivery, support, warranty — all from one $8 billion company.

Fronius is one of many inverter companies partnering with the SunSpec Alliance, which defined an open industry standard for communication between modules, inverters and string combiners to support module level rapid shutdown requirements. “We not only believe that industry standards have economic advantages for distributors and installers, but that they also ensure better safety,” says Richard Baldinger, director of marketing with Fronius.

Morningstar’s Energy Storage Partner program (ESP) is an ongoing collaboration with selected premium battery manufacturers with advanced technologies/chemistries. The ESP verifies, confirms and thoroughly documents recommended charge settings along with best practices, to provide system designers and installers with as close to a plug-and-play solution as possible when configuring energy storage systems to best use specific batteries.

SolarEdge recently announced that it was one of the first companies to collaborate with Google to integrate EV charging with the Google Assistant in order to make EV charging simpler for consumers. The integration allows consumers to tell the Google Assistant to start and stop EV charging. SolarEdge plans to add more functionality to its Google Assistant commands, including inquiring about charging status, checking average miles charged in the charging session and pre-schedule charging.

Yaskawa Solectria Solar has partnered with Alencon to provide a repowering solution for legacy 600 V PV arrays. Customers can replace legacy and underperforming 600 V inverters with the latest inverter and power electronic technology to return these systems to operation.

Sungrow has partnered with several third-party monitoring and controls companies (NorCal controls, Locus and AlsoEnergy are all well known, trusted brands in the industry) to produce off-the shelf solutions that can be used in combination with its products. This gives customers the ease of doing business and designing projects around its products.

Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarEdge to offer its own battery as part of full storage solution, among several product portfolio updates

SolarEdge

Word out of Intersolar Europe is SolarEdge Technologies is expanding its StorEdge solution with the launch of new inverters optimized for the combined management of solar, storage, and home energy. The StorEdge expansion will include three new additions to the solution portfolio, plus the company will preview its own commercial and residential batteries to complement its smart solar energy portfolio.

In June 2019, SolarEdge will introduce to the market a single phase inverter with HD-Wave technology that integrates the management of solar, storage, and home energy into one inverter. The combination of all of these functions into one inverter will simplify installation, improve system RoI, and increase self-consumption.

A second enhancement to StorEdge is the planned addition of a three phase inverter that can be DC coupled to one or more 48V batteries to support the growing European solar-plus-storage residential market.

The third addition to be showcased at Intersolar are the SolarEdge commercial and residential batteries, which will be added to the StorEdge offering in order to provide a comprehensive storage solution. Committed to providing flexible solar-plus-storage installation options, SolarEdge batteries are expected to be available worldwide in the beginning of 2020 and the company will continue to support StorEdge’s compatibility with multiple battery vendors.

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“As the evolving solar energy market focuses on increasing self-consumption and grid stabilization, PV-plus-storage solutions are becoming a critical factor in the proliferation of smart solar energy ecosystems,” stated Lior Handelsman, SolarEdge’s VP of Marketing and Product Strategy, Founder. “By expanding StorEdge and adding batteries to SolarEdge’s core offering, we will provide a seamless energy experience for both installers and system owners.”

The addition of commercial and residential batteries to its StorEdge offering will allow SolarEdge to offer an end-to-end, compatible storage solution that fully synchronizes PV, battery, and site-level energy management. The Li-Ion, high-voltage NMC batteries will offer energy management by stacking multiple value streams, including demand management (peak shaving), both site-level and aggregated self-consumption maximization, ancillary services, tariff optimization (ToU), in addition to supporting micro-grid applications. As the batteries are designed for full compatibility with StorEdge, the planning, design, installation, service and warranty process are designed to be significantly simplified. The batteries will be able to be either AC or DC coupled with StorEdge, with DC coupling allowing for superior efficiency and PV oversizing.

— Solar Builder magazine