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China's Inverter Market: Domestic Dominance Amid Pricing Pressure

Thanks largely to China's national feed-in tariff (FiT) implemented last summer, the domestic market for PV inverters quintupled in 2011 to surpass 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of shipments, some 2.4 GW of actual installations, and $300 million in revenues, says IMS Research.

Among the firm's findings in a new report:

  • Local Firms Rule.Chinese suppliers dominated the domestic market for inverters, with the top 10 suppliers accounting for over 80 percent of shipments. Sungrow Power was listed as the runaway market leader in 2011 with more than a third of the market; among the top-10, only one supplier (Elettronica Santerno) was non-Chinese.

    Xie also notes that China's rapidly growing solar PV market and the dominance of domestic suppliers could boost their profile globally, as China's inverter shipments made up 10 percent of all worldwide shipments in 2011.
  • Bigger Is Better. Unlike many other major solar PV markets, China's demand for inverters is fairly narrow in scope — inverters rated at 500 kilowatts (kW) and higher represented nearly three-quarters of all inverter shipments, for utility-scale ground-mount installations rushed to take advantage of the end-of-year FiT reductions, according to IMS senior analyst Frank Xie.
  • Prices Are Low. One more aspect of China's inverter market is worth noting: prices are significantly lower than everywhere else. "As per requirements of the project bidding rules, all inverters are required to be shipped with free installation and warrantee for five years in China," Xie explains. "Due to the very large nature of most of the projects being developed in China, prices of the winning bids are typically very low."

Image: Chinese flag via Shutterstock

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