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'Smart’ PV inverter market to grow to 27 GW

Shipments of smart solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters are forecast to grow to 27 GW by 2015, according to IMS Research

By Isabella Kaminski

A new report by IMS Research, The World Market for PV Inverters, shows thats 'smart' PV inverter shipments will account for almost 60% of the market by 2015, compared to just 20% in 2010.

According to the report, this is being driven by utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of PV connected to the grid, and the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate PV into the smart grid.

The report says that 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.

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

As a result of this, IMS Research forecasts that smart inverters will account for 80% of the European, Middle East and Africas market in 2015.

However, Haddon says: “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.”  

According to the report, Germany is leading the integration of solar 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.

Haddon says: “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.”

Another new trend identified in the report is inverters incorporating energy storage. IMS Research forecasts that nearly 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.

Haddon says: “Demand for PV inverters with energy storage will most likely be driven by incentives favouring ‘self-consumption’; however, current solutions, relying on lithium ion batteries, are currently too expensive and need to be reduced considerably before they will be deployed more widely.”

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Energy infrastructure  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity