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Photovoltaic Inverter – 101 on PV Inverter Suppliers and Manufacturers and Prices

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Photovoltaic Inverter or Solar Inverters as they are better known as have become one of the fastest growing segment in power electronics. The ~$2.1 billion market in 2009 with 7 GW of installations has increased by more than 130% to around  $5 billion in 2010 as the solar panel demand globally increased to around 17 GW.Note Solar Inverter Companies have done much better as competition is much lower and the annual price declines in solar inverters has been much lower at around 10% compared to the 50% decline in solar panel in the last 2-3 years.Photovoltaic inverters are not being manufactured by hundreds of suppliers around the world though the top 5 solar inverter manufacturers control almost 75-80% of the market.The reason is that solar inverters have a high technology barrier when it comes to making highly efficient and reliable solar inverters.Till now Chinese manufacturers have not been able to significantly penetrate this solar inverter market because of this.In comparision Chinese solar module producers have captured more than 50% of the global solar market through cutthroat price and cost cutting leading Western solar panel producers like Solarworld to try and get dumping duties imposed on them.SMA Solar is the world’s biggest Photovoltaic Inverter manufacturer and is closely followed by US based Power One.

Types of Photovoltaic Inverters

  • Stand-alone Solar Inverters – They are  used in  systems without a connection to the power grid.Inverter draws Energy from Solar Energy. Many stand-alone inverters have attached batteries.These are mainly used in off grid application and in residential/commercial applications where there is no net metering available.
  • Grid Tied Solar Inverters – Many solar inverters are designed to be connected to a utility grid, and will not operate when they do not detect the presence of the grid. They contain special circuitry to precisely match the voltage and frequency of the grid. Grid-tie inverters are designed to shut down automatically upon loss of utility supply, for safety reasons. They do not provide backup power during utility outages.These are higher priced than standalone and require special laws to be used.They are always used in solar power plants connected to the grid.

PV Inverter Suppliers and Manufacturers

1) SMA Solar – The Big Daddy of the Solar Inverter Market with a   40% Marketshare of the Global Market.This Germany company has become the most valued solar company in Germany beating out the old stalwarts like Q-Cells  and Solarworld. SMA Solar has managed to maintain its marketshare and grow as fast  with the global solar demand unlike some of its competitors.SMA Solar faces tough times ahead as the growing inverter industry attracts numerous competitors and it remains to be seen whether it can avoid the fate of Q-Cells.

2) Power-One – The US power management company has shown the fastest growth in 2010 and has increased its marketshare to around 13% to become the No.2 global player.Power-One is mainly concentrated in Europe and is now expanding to Asia and its home market of USA.

3) Kaco New Energy – Like SMA,this is also a German company though privately held.It too benefited from the strong growth in German solar market in 2009 and 2010 to become a large players.It is has not grown as fast as SMA but is still a big players

4) Fronius International – Fronius Solar Inverters are made by one of the oldest private companies in the solar inverter business.The firm was established by Günter Fronius in Pettenbach, Austriain 1945.Fronius International has production bases in Austria,Czech and Ukraine and the company generated almost 500 million euros of revenue in 2010.Fronius manufactures 3 major product lines under three divisions Battery Chargers,Welding Products and Solar Electronics.Solar Inverters come under the Solar Electronics division.Fronius has been involved in photovoltaic since 1992.

5) Satcon – Satcon is similar to Power-One but has not grown as fast nor does it have the high margins of its bigger competitor.It is strong in the US utility market and is growing its operations there.Like Power-One shifting its manufacturing

6) Schneider Electric – This European Electrical Equipment Giant got into the solar inverter market by buying up Canadian Producer Xantrex.Xantrex Inverters are one of the most popular brands of solar inverters used in residential installations and come in a wide variety of models.Xantrex was one of the first companies to exclusively manufacture inverters for the photovoltaic market.The company was originally based out of Canada and listed on the Toronta Stock Exchange.The company has offices in in the United States, Germany and Spain and  China.The fortunes of the company changed when it was bought over by one of the biggest power equipment companies Schneider Electric.

7) General Electric– GE is trying to become an integrated player in the solar PV market supplying everything from products to services.GE is one of the biggest producers of Wind Inverters in the world and so getting into the Solar Inverter market was easy for the company.GE makes solar inverters for the utility scale market mostly and the power ratings of the solar invertesr are in the 100-1000 kw range.Its most famous inverter is the 1 megawatt (MW) Brilliance Solar Inverter.The 1 MW inverter’s two-stage power conversion provides a standard 480vac output voltage works both in 50 and 60 HZ.

8 ) Sputnik Engineering – Sputnik is a Swiss company that has used the European solar growth to become a reasonably big player in the solar inverter market

9) Advanced Energy – AEIS which is a US semiconductor company  is also a big manufacturer of solar inverters.It stands to benefit from the future growth of the Solar Market in the US.

10) Solectria Renewables -Solectria Renewables is a U.S. based grid-tied PV inverter,manufacturer for residential, commercial and utility-scale solar projects. It sells 1.8kW to 500kW grid-tied inverters for systems 1kW to multi-MWs. Its PV inverters are manufactured in the USA, ARRA compliant, Ontario FIT Content Compliant, and listed to UL 1741/IEEE 1547.

11) Delta Electronics – Taiwanese Giant Electronics Firm entered the solar inverter market by buying up the Inverter Division of German Solar Comapny Solon.The company has production facilities in Taiwan and is setting up a production base in Chennai to capitalize on the Solar Inverter Opportunity.Delta is also expanding in countries like Singapore and Germany to take advantage of the the growth in Green Industry.

12) Sungrow -Founded in 1997 by Renxian Cao with Headquartered in Hefei, China, Near Shanghai, Sungrow has grown into the largest solar inverter comapny in China with presence  in France, Italy, Germany,  Canada and the US. It claims to have installed over 1GW of PV Inverters  in China, Italy, Germany, Spain and Australia.Sungrow products has most of the international  Certificates such as TUV, Enel-GUIDA, AS4777, ETL, CE.Sungrow has more than 10 years working experience in research, development, production and sales of PV grid-connected inverters and it has launched a series of power plant inverters specially-made for medium & large scale of PV power plants  which rated at 100kW, 250kW, 500kW and 1MW

13) ABB – Swedish power conglomerate ABB is one the biggest players in the electrical transformer market in the world.It has massive technological expertise and it is a matter of time that it becomes a big player in the solar inverter market as well.

14) Siemens – Like GE , Siemens sells solar inverters mainly to the commercial and utility market using its expertise in the power electronics space.Siemens has a big presence in the wind turbine industry as well as the solar thermal industry.It is leveraging that to sell photovoltaic inverters.

15) Kinglong – This is a Chinese inverter manufacture with headquarters in Beijing and three
factories throughout China which has been growing rapidly in recent year.The company’s main selling point is its price which is cheaper than the European solar inverters.However you don’t get the efficiency of the premium models with Kinglong.The company sells solar inverters in the price range of $500 for a 1.5 kw inverter to $1500 for a 5 kw inverter under the brand of SunTeams.

16) Sharp – Sharp is not known for manufacture or sale of solar inverters.It however sells a very small range of solar inverters mostly to boost its solar panel business in Australia.It sells a JH1600 E 1.6 kw solar inverter.

17) Excelsior – This is a local Australian Brand of Solar Inverters.The company sells lower priced products and has been in the business for around 20 years.The comapny sells most of its Solar Inverter after sourcing it from SMA Solar .The price range is $1800 for a 1 kw inverter to $5000 for a 5 kw inverter.
18) RefuSol – This is also a German manufacturer of solar inverter and is sold by distributors in Australia like the other solar inverters.
19) Selectronic – Another local Australian  manufacturer of power inverters in Australia since 1983. It sells in the range of 0.1-13 kw .

20) Samil Power has 5 main branches in Germany, Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuxi, Suqian in China. .It has 4 gigawatt production capacity and gives 5 year warranties

Photovoltaic Inverter Prices

Solar Inverters sell for a wide range of prices depending on the quality,brand and features.In general European solar inverters from SMA,Xantrex sell for a higher price than that from Chinese makers.The Chinese solar inverters are the cheapest as you can buy a 5 kw solar inverter for $1500 compared to $5000 for a premium solar inverter from SMA.Power One falls in the middle and it gives better quality and reliability compared to the Chinese and sells at a lower price as well.


Abhishek Shah

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