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Solar PV inverter shipments down 39% in Q1 2011

Global solar photovoltaic (PV) inverter shipments fell 39% to 4 GW in Q1 2011 compared to Q4 2010, but increased 31% from Q1’10, according to IMS Research.

By IMS Research, edited by Renewable Energy Focus

Rising channel inventory in markets such as Germany, Italy and France contributed to the disappointing first quarter results for solar PV inverters.

Although the first quarter of the year is traditionally weak for the solar PV inverter industry, the 39% sequential drop in Q1’11 shipments was much larger than the 17% drop seen a year earlier.

“Q1’11 was a difficult quarter for inverter suppliers. Inventory began to build in late 2010 and this continued with order cancellations common for suppliers during the quarter. Q1’11 is now the second quarter in succession where shipments have fallen,” says Ash Sharma, PV Research Director at IMS Research.

Following a trend seen in late 2010, Germany continued to become less important to the solar PV inverter industry in Q1 2011. Since IMS Research began tracking quarterly shipments, Q1 2011 was the first quarter when Italy had a larger market than Germany, with over 1.2 GW of solar PV inverters shipped.

Inventory may be a likely destination for the solar PV inverters, given that uncertainty caused by a review of the Italian feed-in tariff in Q1 2011 halted project financing and stalled the market. “Even with uncertainty during the quarter, inverter demand stayed buoyant; with installations still being completed from the previous Conto Energia FiT scheme, which expired at the end of 2010”, Sharma adds.

Germany’s falling share of the solar PV inverter market was also apparent in the results of its supplier base, with many German suppliers losing share of the global market. Market leader SMA Solar Technology reported quarterly results, which were down on the same period in 2010. US-based suppliers such as Satcon and Advanced Energy continued to perform strongly, being less exposed to the stalling European markets.

IMS Research predicts only slow growth in demand for solar PV inverters in Q2 2011, since several GW of inventory is being held throughout the supply chain. Weak demand in Europe is not clearing the inventory quickly enough for strong growth to return.

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