Asian inverter firms storm the charts

After a banner 2013, Asian PV inverter suppliers are for the first time set to begin pushing aggressively into international markets, in further bad news for their beleaguered European rivals.

The dramatic shift of the global PV market towards Asia is underscored by IHS’s new top 10 ranking of inverter suppliers in 2013, with four of the companies based in Asia – compared to none just two years ago.

While loss-making German inverter giant SMA managed to retain the number one slot that it has held for many years, the third, fourth, fifth and seventh slots were held by Omron (Japan), TMEIC (Japan), Sungrow (China), and Tabuchi (Japan), respectively.

Of those, only Omron, part of a sprawling Japanese electronics company, made IHS’s annual rankings list in 2012.

Sungrow claimed its spot on the list after shipping 2GW in the fourth-quarter of 2013 alone in the blistering Chinese market, just off the 2.4GW quarterly record set by SMA in 2010.

At present, all four Asian suppliers sell almost nothing outside their domestic markets.

But Sam Wilkinson, solar research manager at IHS, says that is about to change.

“The economies of scale, expertise and brand strength that they have now been able to achieve makes them well placed for international expansion,” says Wilkinson. “The world is likely to see many of these suppliers play a greater role in markets outside Asia over the next two to three years.”

Just as jolting as the rise of Asian suppliers is the decline of their European counterparts.

Five years ago, eight of the top 10 slots were held by European companies. Last year, just four made the list – and that’s only if ABB, which last year acquired California-based Power-One, is included.

Partly that is due to the wave of consolidation that has already rolled over Europe’s inverter landscape, with former heavyhitters like Ingeteam and Conergy’s inverter subsidiary having been acquired by Schneider Electric and Bosch, respectively – and Siemens, the world’s number six supplier in 2008, having exited the PV business altogether.

The US, meanwhile, has increased its showing on the list, with Advanced Energy and micro-inverter specialist Enphase both making the cut – aside from ABB-owned Power-One, which maintains a large presence in the US.