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Comment: Round two of the Solar Shakeout – Who will thrive, survive, or dive?

Lux Research

Lux Research assesses which solar module and inverter makers will win – and which will lose.

Despite a strong opening to 2010 for the solar market, manufacturers are now bracing themselves for further price declines and stiffer competition. As module makers prepare for a renewed trench war based on production scale, inverter players aim to stake their competitive territory based on performance improvements and novel architectures. A new report from Lux Research assesses the likely winners and losers in the renewed solar shakeout.

Titled Sorting Solar Module and Inverter Manufacturers on the Lux Innovation Grid, the report applies the Lux Innovation Grid to assess the competitiveness of solar module-makers in crystalline silicon (x-Si), thin-film silicon (TF-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), and concentrated photovoltaics (CPV).

The report also compares solar inverter makers competing for residential/small commercial and large commercial/utility markets.

“As the solar industry braces for a renewed shakeout, identifying which module- and inverter-makers have the greatest value is more important than ever,” says Jason Eckstein, a Research Associate at Lux Research and the report’s lead author.

Lux Research scored solar companies based on the strength of their technologies, business execution and relative maturity in the marketplace. Based on these scores, each company was then assigned a position on the Lux Innovation Grid to compare their competitiveness against other players sharing the space.

Some more notable solar trends the report observes include:

  • Clear leaders emerge among CIGS and CPV solar module-makers. While familiar trends continue to advance in x-Si, TF-Si and CdTe, clear leaders have finally emerged in CIGS and CPV. Among CIGS players, Q-Cells subsidiary Solibro and start-up Miasolé have moved into the Lux Innovation Grid’s ‘dominant’ quadrant. Meanwhile, in the CPV category, Amonix has broken away from its competitors followed by Concentrix and Solaria, while the rest of the CPV field struggles;
  • Technology improvements provide an edge among solar inverter players. Despite their lead in the large commercial-scale and utility-scale segments, SMA and Siemens are technologically surpassed by innovative companies like Advanced Energy and Satcon, which could both easily move into the ‘dominant’ quadrant with greater scale and execution; and
  • Start-ups appearing in the Lux Innovation Grid’s ‘dominant’ quadrant are likely IPO candidates. Amonix, Enphase, and Abound Solar have all met critical milestones over the past year and are in strong positions to launch successful IPOs in the coming year. Enphase is likely to move the most quickly, having already reached high sales volumes in the inverter market.

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Energy infrastructure  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity