With the solar PV market exhibiting strong growth in installations starting in the third quarter 2009, demand for PV inverters gradually began to outstrip supply. Demand remained tight throughout 2010, exacerbating the problem of inadequate supply, and the resulting shortfall in PV inverters became a bottleneck for system installation and grid connections. As a result, PV inverter manufacturers have actively expanded production capacity to address this situation, and capacity is estimated to have hit 40GW at the end of 2010.
The PV inverter market was originally dominated by Europe- and North America-based manufacturers, with Taiwan- and China-based firms shipping only small volumes of goods. However, faced with the prospect of shortfalls in supply during 2010, large numbers of orders were placed with Taiwan- and China-based manufacturers instead, leading to record order figures for many such firms. The profitability of PV inverters has also attracted a number of companies from power supply-related sectors to invest in R&D for PV inverters. In 2011, PV inverter products from as many as five to ten Taiwan-based firms new to the sector are predicted to be certified and start shipping; while more than one hundred China-based firms eager to take a slice of this lucrative market are projected to launch PV inverters this year.
PV inverters from Taiwan-based manufactures have already been granted power grid certification in many countries, with product quality reaching a high standard. Many China-based manufacturers' products have only been granted power grid certification in China, however, and the quality of many of their products still lags behind that of their Taiwan-based counterparts. Consequently, there are considerable differences between Taiwan and China-based manufacturers in terms of strategy, positioning and pricing.
Looking ahead, although the reduction of PV subsidies by governments including Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and France will affect demand for installations in local markets, the rise of many emerging markets will sustain burgeoning demand for PV system installations. Digitimes Research forecasts that system installations will reach 22.4GWp in 2011, while shipments of PV inverters will hit 24.5GWp.