Yaskawa buys inverter firm Solectria

Yaskawa Electric has announced plans to acquire US PV inverter maker Solectria Renewables, just two weeks after the Japanese machinery maker agreed to buy Finnish wind components specialist The Switch.

The deal underscores Yaskawa’s drive to “broaden [its] exposure in the renewable energy market”, says Mike Knapek, president of Yaskawa’s America division.

While both Solectria and Yaskawa currently produce PV inverters, which are used to convert the electricity produced by PV modules into the form used by the power grid, neither is yet a global leader in the space.

Yaskawa, a $3.6bn company with interests in many industries, claims to have established a “leadership position” in the Japanese inverter market for small solar installations, while Solectria Renewables has a broader product portfolio, including inverters targeting the commercial-rooftop and utility-scale solar sectors.

Yaskawa will bring “scale, global sales and manufacturing facilities, as well as diversification to Solectria”, while Solectria will contribute an “in-depth knowledge of medium- and high-voltage PV products to Yaskawa”, the companies say.

The Japanese solar market is shifting to include more large PV projects, while the US market is expected to pivot towards smaller projects in the years ahead.

Massachusetts-based Solectria has 170 employees in the US, and claims to have been profitable for the past seven years, with revenues up 40% last year.

Among its recent high-profile orders, Solectria's inverters were used at a 10MW installation at the Indianapolis airport, which at the time of completion last year was the largest airport PV installation in the world. The company also recently nabbed a 22MW, seven-project order in its home state.

Yaskawa trades on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, while Solectria Renewables is privately held. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

As the Japanese solar market has boomed since the introduction of a feed-in tariff in 2012, so too have the fortunes of the country’s domestic PV inverter suppliers.

In 2013, three of the world’s top 10 solar inverter suppliers were based in Japan – Omron, TMEIC and Tabuchi – compared to none five years ago, according to IHS.

The top US-based suppliers are Advanced Energy and Enphase Energy, now that Power-One (the world’s number two supplier) has been acquired by ABB.

Japan and the US were the world’s number two and three PV markets last year, trailing China.