PV Inverter Market Achieves Record Shipments in 2011
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PV Inverter Market Achieves Record Shipments in 2011
Wellingborough, UK – 8th February 2012: The PV inverter market achieved a new record in 2011 with shipments exceeding 26 GW for the first time according to preliminary results from IMS Research. The research firm found that inverter shipments grew by more than 10% in 2011, despite the huge inventory overhang from the year before. IMS Research’s preliminary Q4’11 report, which was released on Monday found that inverter shipments grew by up to 15% in 2011, with more than 8 GW shipped in the last quarter of the year. The report, which is widely considered the most accurate indicator for the PV inverter industry, as it collects sales and shipment data from more than 40 of the largest manufacturers, accounting for more than 85% of the industry, found major regional variations. “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. Whilst the German marked performed poorly in 2011, this was more than offset by other markets. China performed extremely well following the country’s introduction of its FiT and saw shipments of nearly 3 GW, whilst the Americas market achieved shipments of close to 4 GW. The 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. The research firm estimates that inventory levels have returned to more “normal” levels, though again significant regional variations are occurring. “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,” explained Sharma. Quarterly analysis of the global PV inverter market is available from IMS Research’s “PV Inverter Supply & Demand Report”. The company has been researching the PV inverter market for more than 5 years and its customers included more than 50 of the world’s largest manufacturers. For more details, please contact Stacey.May@imsresearch.com.
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PV inverter shipments in 2011: 23GW or 26GW?

The PV inverter industry did a good job limiting production and clearing excessive inventory levels in 2011. After over shipping about 3GW in 2010 to the global market place the inverter industry was able to meet 2011 installation demand via consumption of these excess plus new shipments. 2011 shipments were based on better demand-matched production rates then the year before when production constraints helped stimulate over ordering and over production later in the year.

Worldwide installations in 2010 were only 17.9 GW and those extra inverters had to go somewhere and that turned out to be to installations during Q1 and Q2 of 2011. If the industry had shipped as much as much 26 GW this year then what happened to the excess shipments of last year assuming the installations of 2011 was around 26 GW as well? 3 GW of inventory is worth about $780M at factory gate prices and this is too much capital to have been allowed to linger in inventory without a large consequence.

Confirmation of this viewpoint comes from industry leader SMA as it stated in its Press Release of January 13, 2012 as well as in a presentation at HSBC/SRI Cleantech Conference on February 01, 2012 that “the solar inverter market of 2011 reached 23GW (2010: 23GW). Strong installations in Q4 were driven by inventory clearance.”

Editor note: Financial analysts have noted on many occasions that companies can underestimate global demand to give themselves higher market share positions or to hide market share losses.

SMA further states that according to its sales pipeline many of the Q4 installations in Germany have been registered without having an inverter.

This data confirms the IHS iSuppli forecast of 23.4 GW inverter shipments (2010: 23.6GW) which was compiled independently.

It is too early to say that 26 GW were not shipped until final tallies are in but it seems that the strong installations of Q4 have made people believe that 2011 was a record year for inverters. We look at 2011 as the year the inverter industry did a good job matching supply and demand.

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Conflicting 2011 PV inverter figures released

According to one research company, the photovoltaic inverter industry experienced a "record" year in 2011, with shipments increasing by up to 15 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, a second has reported that growth actually declined by one percent from 2010.

In its latest PV Inverter Supply & Demand Report, IMS Research has found that at over 26 gigawatts (GW), growth in the 2011 photovoltaic inverter marketplace was up by over 10 percent from 2010’s figures. This record was achieved, it said, despite the "huge" inventory buildup from the year before and following eight GW worth of shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011. It added, "In total, IMS Research estimates shipments grew by up to 15 percent globally in 2011, but revenues were flat in U.S. dollar terms and slightly down in euros."

The future
IHS iSuppli agrees that the market should be much more stable in 2012. It further forecasts growth of five percent this year, despite the fact that revenues are set to decline. From 2013 to 1016, the company additionally expects to see "successive expansion". "While revenue will still decline in 2012, the retreat will ease to just three percent, after which growth is expected to return and then climb to the 20 percent range by 2014 as demand from new markets begins to make an impact," it said.

It added that in particular, the U.S., China and Japan will represent the largest absolute growth in inverter opportunities this year. India and other emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and MENA are also expected to do well. France and Italy, however, will "run into stiffer headwinds in 2012".

Finally, Sheppard said that the German market could also see further stimulation on the back of new feed-in tariff cuts this year.
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