Q1 Solar Inverter Results Paint Two Different Pictures

Quarterly  Shipment Growth for PV inverters

Q1’10 was an outstanding and unique quarter for PV inverter suppliers for two very different reasons. All suppliers reported incredibleperformance making Q1’10 the largest first quarter on record in terms of inverter shipments. Despite this strong result, demand for invertersstill outstripped supply; and the component shortage and inverterproduction problems that began in Q4’09 in fact worsened in Q1’10 withquarter-to-quarter supply falling.

Global inverter shipments reached 3.1 GW in Q1’10 – the largest first quarter total for the industry, and the second highest quarterly result on record. 57% of global shipments were to Germany, with Italy andFrance also providing strong demand.

This 1.8 GW of shipments to Germany does however contradict initialindications from the Bundesnetzagentur, which announced thatinstallations were just 390 MW in the first two months of 2010. However, the Bundesnetzagentur only shows installations which have been registered and is not necessarily a good indicator of total demand in a quarter. IMS Research predicts that demand for inverters in Q2 will beas high as the previous quarter; and that total installations in Germany for the whole of 2010 will exceed 5 GW.Although Q1’10 presented someincredible results for inverter suppliers, with shipments up more than300% year-on-year, sequentially shipments fell in all regions, including Germany. Total global inverter shipments were 3.7 GW in Q4’09, some 16% higher than Q1’10. In a “normal” year this kind of seasonality would be expected; however, as strong demand has continued into early 2010 withthe impending cut to Germany’s feed-in tariff (FIT), this sequentialdecline of inverter shipments contrasts the increasing shipments of PVmodules and highlights that the supply of inverters may still berestraining growth of the PV industry.

Production constraints still blight the PV inverter industry, witheven market leader SMA having to issue a formal apology to itscustomers; it recently indicated its production capacity would belimited to around 1.3 GW in the second quarter and supply constraintswould not ease until July at the earliest. Despite the supply ofcomponents strongly affecting SMA’s abilities to raise its productionoutput, it did in fact gain market share in Q1’10, illustrating thatthis shortage is also impacting its competitors’ business and the issueis affecting the entire inverter industry.

During recent meetings with inverter suppliers, almost all indicatedto IMS Research that they were suffering problems of component supply;some were worse affected than others. Many indicated delivery times ofmore than 30 weeks; a large proportion also suggested they were notaccepting any new orders and were already sold out for the year. Withfour countries predicted to become GW markets this year, this is not atall surprising, and the lack of inverters is likely to leave lots ofcustomers disappointed. Despite this continuing problem of supply, IMSResearch still forecasts inverter shipments will grow massively thisyear, leading new installations to grow to more than 11 GW.

By Ash Sharma, PV Group Research Director, IMS Research



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