Smart PV Inverters Will Dominate Market by 2015

"Smart" inverters for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations will account for nearly 60% of the market by 2015, compared to just 20% in 2010, according to a report.

Inverters convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by solar panels into the alternating current (AC) that moves along the electric grid. 

According to IMS Research, "smart" inverter features such as reactive power, smart grid interaction and energy storage are transforming inverters from a simple power conversion unit into an essential component of grid infrastructure and will radically change the PV inverter market over the next five years. 

Shipments are forecast to grow to 27 gigawatts (GW) in 2015.

This is being driven by utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of PV connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate PV into the ‘smart grid’, IMS Research says.

"Utilities, especially in Europe, are increasingly pushing for inverters to assist in grid stabilization and conform to stricter technical requirements," says Tom Haddon a PV Research Analyst at IMS Research.

Because of this, IMS Research forecasts that smart inverters will account for 80% of the EMEA (European, Middle East and Africa) market in 2015.

"Despite this, most inverter shipments will still not be "fully smart" and will only have reactive power capabilities, rather than full smart grid interaction or energy storage," Haddon notes.

The research found that Germany is leading the integration of PV into the grid with the newly implemented Low and Medium Voltage Directives, and other European countries are likely to follow suit.

Due to this, ‘standard’ inverters are forecast to fall to just 42% of global shipments by 2015 as the directives are fully enforced.

"Reactive power is an essential feature for inverters to carry if PV is to be a substantial part of the energy mix to provide local grid control which is why the German authorities have acted first to implement such codes." Haddon says.

Energy Storage Trend

Another new trend identified in the report is inverters incorporating energy storage.

IMS forecasts that close to 5% of all PV inverters shipped in 2015 will be equipped with storage such as batteries to help power loads continuously throughout the day.

However, in order for this to happen these products will have to quickly reduce in cost, and improve in efficiency and reliability before gaining widespread acceptance.

"Demand for PV inverters with energy storage will most likely be driven by incentives favouring ‘self-consumption’ [of solar-generated electricity (rather than grid feed-in)]; however, current solutions, relying on lithium ion batteries, are too expensive and need to be reduced considerably before they will be deployed more widely." Haddon concludes.

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