Huawei takes inverter market leader slot

Huawei has taken the top spot in the world inverter rankings following two years of strong growth in its home market. The company is now expected to focus on opportunities in overseas markets, particularly the USA, Europe, Japan and India, writes PV Tech’s Ben Willis.

Last year saw a significant milestone reached in the global PV inverter landscape. Previously dominated by European manufacturers, particularly Germany’s SMA Solar, 2015 saw Chinese string inverter supplier Huawei steal the limelight by becoming the global market leader.

In the first half of 2016, Huawei’s leadership on the global rankings has been confirmed by two reports produced by GTM Research and IHS. The respected market research firms, which both track global inverter market activity, separately reported that Huawei had taken sufficient market share in 2015 to become the world leader in terms of megawatts shipped.

IHS’ figures reveal that, after having been sat at 15th place in the world inverter rankings between 2010 and 2013, Huawei shot up to fourth place in 2014 before taking the number one slot last year with an estimated 13.5% market share based on total megawatts shipped.

IHS said Huawei had been “highly aggressive” in promoting the use of its three-phase, low-power inverters in the utility-scale segment, and as a result was able to secure a significant share of its domestic market as well as 9% share of global revenue.

GTM agreed that Huawei had secured its numberone position as a result of its strong performance at home, with some 90% of its shipments going to the Chinese market. Scott Moskowitz, an analyst with GTM Research, added that the company’s success also challenged what had been the previously accepted wisdom about the place of string inverters.

“Huawei has upended the notion that string inverters would be used in place of central inverters in small and progressively larger utility projects,” Moskowitz said. “The company has committed to a fully string inverter portfolio, employing their devices in some of the largest solar power plants in the world.” Some of these projects are profiled on pages 22-24.

Meanwhile, the ambitions of Huawei and its compatriots are not limited solely to servicing their home market. According to IHS, growth in the Chinese domestic market is expected to slow in 2016 as a result of uncertainties around future incentive levels and grid-connection and payment delays that are likely to stifle demand.

As a consequence, Chinese suppliers are increasingly focused on more profitable export markets and indeed are continuing to gain acceptance in international markets. This is illustrated by Huawei’s 2015 figures, which show it achieved 2GW of inverter exports for the first time.

“Huawei obviously are very big in China and building out their international business in Europe and the US will be a key market for them moving forward,” said IHS’ Cormac Gilligan. Europe, Japan and India are also key markets for the company.

GTM Research said Huawei had “changed the global PV inverter market and will affect it for years to come”: “The company’s growth has quickly consolidated the Chinese market and left a long trail of dilapidated competitors. Huawei now looks to do the same on a global scale. It will not be easy. Early success in Europe has been promising, but those markets have long been accepting of Chinese inverters and the projects there are mostly commercial in size. Huawei has yet to prove its value proposition in large-scale plants outside of China and this will be its primary challenge.

“In the United States, the market it covets most, EPCs are conservative and will need to be fully convinced that string inverters are appropriate solutions for utility-scale plants. As a result, initial growth could take some time. However, if the value proposition is proven and EPCs see a cost advantage, the market could transition quickly. Look no further than 1,500 volt inverter technology for a similar anticipation and growth phase. Overall, the company will continue to be aggressive and the entire industry will be forced to pay attention as a result.”

Overall, the inverter market appears to be consolidating globally. According to GTM Research, the top 10 inverter vendors accounted for 75% of global shipments in 2015 up from 69% in 2014.

The rankings were said to reflect the makeup of the global market as the top nine vendors were comprised entirely of companies with strong utility-scale product offerings in the major solar markets.

This article includes commentary and analysis that originally appeared on Reproduced with permission.