Solar electronics and solar monitoring make up one of the more dynamic sectors in solar.
While the module manufacturing market is undergoing consolidation and painful attrition, the monitoring and electronics market is showing some signs of life -- whether it be the (admittedly limp) public debut of Enphase (Nasdaq: ENPH), the growth of Tigo and SolarEdge's optimizer business or the rapid growth and activity in electronics and monitoring.
The global PV monitoring market is forecast to reach nearly 50 gigawatts by 2016, according to a just-released report from GTM Research and SoliChamba on PV monitoring, growing from 23 gigawatts this year at a similar pace to the inverter market. The vendors in this sector range from inverter suppliers (where PV monitoring "originated") to independent monitoring vendors to project developers that integrate hardware and software that manage a PV system's operations data and client interface.
Like most of the other sectors in the over-supplied solar industry, market consolidation in solar monitoring will continue over the next five years. The report authors write, "The most likely targets for acquisition would be privately owned firms with a leading position in a region or segment, such as DECK Monitoring and Draker in North America and Solar-Log in Europe."
Almost on cue, Burlington, Vermont-based Draker just announced that it would be merging with Austin's Solar Power Technology (SPT) and garnering $8 million in venture capital from Austin Ventures, Harbor Light Capital Partners, et al. SPT and Draker have won more than $18 million in VC funding including this most recent round, according to VentureBeat. The new, combined company will operate under the “Draker” name with Charles Curtis of Draker as CEO. VCs invested $190 million in the solar sector in Q2 2012, according to recent tallies by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The GTM Research report ranked Draker as "number one in total new monitored megawatts in 2011" and saw Solar Power Technologies as bringing more granular (string and module-level) monitoring and optimization technology to the deal. The report estimates the five-year costs of a monitoring system ranging from $0.26 per watt for an (expensive) 5-kilowatt residential system down to approximately $0.01 per watt for a 5-megawatt system.
FIGURE: Global PV Monitoring Market Share by Company, 2011