This is the second piece in a two-part series from Cedric Brehaut on GTM Research's Global PV Monitoring: Technologies, Markets and Leading Players, 2012-2016 report. In Part I, we reviewed the value and technology offerings of the global PV monitoring market. Below, we will explore the market's competitive landscape and uncover its leading vendors.

PV Monitoring Vendor Categories

GTM Research and SoliChamba Consulting divide PV monitoring's competitive landscape into three main categories:

Independent monitoring providers are firms offering technology-independent solutions as a standalone business without strong technical or business ties to another product offering such as PV hardware (e.g., inverters) or services (e.g., project development). Europe boasts a healthy number of such firms, including Solare Datensysteme (also known as Solar-Log), Common-Link AG, GreenPowerMonitor, inAccess Networks, meteocontrol and skytron energy. There are few independent North American monitoring providers after both Fat Spaniel Technologies and SolarMagic (formerly Energy Recommerce) were acquired by Power-One. The remaining firms include DECK Monitoring, Draker and Locus Energy.

Inverter firms and conglomerates are companies offering monitoring solutions as part of a broader hardware product portfolio where monitoring is not the primary focus. European inverter manufacturers like Fronius and SMA were among the first to invest in developing monitoring solutions. Many other inverter manufacturers prefer to OEM or resell monitoring solutions from independent monitoring providers, and some, such as AE Solar Energy, let their customers choose between a basic internally developed solution and factory integration with a number of independent vendors. In recent years, North American vendor Power-One acquired two prominent monitoring firms in the U.S.: Fat Spaniel Technologies and the SolarMagic division of National Semiconductor, including the monitoring solution formerly known as Energy Recommerce MyPVData. Inverter firms that are part of a large conglomerate have a slightly different profile. They tend to focus on the large-scale utility segments, and their monitoring product is typically a general-purpose SCADA system designed for industrial automation that has been simplified, tailored and packaged for a solar PV plant application. Examples include ABB, GE Energy and Siemens.

A number of integrated solar firms, project developers and energy providers have developed their own monitoring solution because it is important for them to own the customer’s interface with their products and services. Their market segment in monitoring reflects the overall firm’s focus: Sunrun on the residential segment, SunEdison on commercial and utility segment, and SunPower on all three.

Metrics: Megawatts vs. Sites

The megawatt is the traditional metric for assessment of market share in the PV industry; however, the number of sites is also a valid and relevant metric since one instance of a monitoring system is normally needed for each PV site. This perspective is critical to assessing market share and leadership for any particular vendor, as a successful company in the utility segment will score high in terms of megawatts and low in the total number of sites, while one in the residential segment will score high in sites and low in megawatts.

The figures below indicate one major characteristic of the monitoring market: given the fundamental difference in system size in each segment (5.35 kilowatts for residential, 252 kilowatts for commercial and 4.3 megawatts for utility), the relative weight of these segments varies dramatically depending on which metric is used.

Figure: Monitored PV by Market Segment, 2011


Source: Global PV Monitoring: Technologies, Markets and Leading Players, 2012-2016

Global Market Leaders

The predominance of European markets in 2011 means that the leading monitoring vendors at the worldwide level necessarily are those that have a strong market share in Europe. However, North American and Asian vendors may experience rapid strengthening of their worldwide position in the future if their home markets grow faster than those in Europe.

The figure below presents the worldwide market landscape and plots all vendors by the number of monitored sites added in 2011 (horizontal axis) and the number of monitored megawatts added in 2011 (vertical axis). The bubble size measures the total aggregated monitored megawatts for the company (as of December 31, 2011) and the color indicates the company type. Since the number of sites ranges from a few plants to almost 100,000, the scale for this axis is logarithmic, which means that even small differences on the horizontal axis indicate large gaps in the number of sites.

FIGURE: Global PV Monitoring Market, 2011

Source: Global PV Monitoring: Technologies, Markets and Leading Players, 2012-2016

The duality and conflicting nature of the two metrics (megawatts vs. sites) makes it difficult to pinpoint one undisputable market leader; however, Solar-Log stands out by scoring very high on both megawatts and number of sites, which makes it the most visible vendor in the upper right quadrant of the chart. This position is explained by the company’s presence in all three segments (residential, commercial, utility), whereas its competitors are predominantly active in either one or two segments and have a heavy weight towards either megawatts (for those successful in the utility segment like skytron energy and meteocontrol) or sites (for those successful in the residential segment like SMA and Fronius).

In terms of new monitored megawatts, the leading monitoring vendors for 2011 are meteocontrol, skytron energy and Solar-Log (appearing in the upper part of the chart). Meteocontrol sells to both utility and commercial segments, while skytron energy focuses almost entirely on the utility segment.

In terms of new monitored sites, the leading monitoring vendors for 2011 are Solar-Log, SMA and Fronius (appearing in the right side of the chart). Solar-Log scores higher on the megawatt axis due to stronger presence in the commercial segment, while SMA and Fronius are much more favored in the residential segment. This bias contrasts with their general inverter sales, which in line with the global industry have been headed toward larger systems; in larger commercial and utility systems, operators tend to favor independent monitoring providers.

Competitive Landscape Trends in 2012 and Beyond

Projected contraction of the European market in 2012 will impact local vendors, since their revenue depends largely on domestic sales. Many independent monitoring firms have anticipated this issue and intensified their efforts to grow their presence in North America; however, as of 2011, their success was limited. The strongest European firm in North America, meteocontrol, captured less than 5 percent in megawatt market share. 2012 will be a test year for European firms seeking sales in North America, and could lead to acquisitions of leading local vendors by large European firms.

For an even deeper look at the global PV monitoring market, visit www.greentechmedia.com/research/report/global-pv-monitoring-2012.

Tags: efficiency, inverters, lcoe, monitoring, outage management, photovoltaics, pv, smart grid, solar