Microinverters and DC optimizers (collectively known as module-level power electronics, or MLPE) comprise one of the newest and fastest-growing sectors in thesolarindustry. In a new report, The Microinverter and DC Optimizer Landscape 2014: The Evolution From Market Niche to Market Success, GTM Research forecasts global microinverter and DC optimizer shipments to surpass 5 gigawatts by 2017, up from 1.1 gigawatts in 2013.

Source: GTM Research

According to the report, 2014 marks a transition year as the MLPE category ends its first chapter, in which dozens of startups entered the market promising to increase energy yield, improve system reliability, and provide granular monitoring. By the end of 2013, many of these companies went dormant, bankrupt, or began to undergo significant restructuring, while three leaders emerged; Enphase Energy, SolarEdge Technologies, and Tigo Energy in a distant third. These three companies accounted for 88 percent of capacity shipped in 2013.

In the new chapter of the MLPE industry described by GTM Research, the incumbent firms are executing new strategies to evolve beyond their initial base demand to stay ahead of a new group of well-funded competitors. The product value propositions are shifting to an entirely new set of more nuanced and more valuable areas, including installer operational throughput, design flexibility, and cost reduction in labor and electrical balance of systems.

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“The companies of four years ago would not recognize the companies of today,” said report author Paul Grana.  “It isn’t just that costs have come down dramatically, though that is true.  But more importantly, the companies of today sell a broader and much more compelling value proposition. And that is why the sector has grown from a small niche to shipping more than a gigawatt per year.”

In addition to the increased competition and sophistication among the MLPE suppliers, the long-promised fully integrated AC modules and smart modules are finally entering the market. These products represent a dramatic strategic shift, as major module manufacturers are becoming players in the MLPE sector. The success (or failure) of these module manufacturers at selling these value-added products will determine the winners and losers in the MLPE category over the next five years. 

According to MJ Shiao, Director of Solar Research at GTM Research, “As the global industry focuses on balance-of-system costs, microinverters and DC optimizers represent a large, relatively untapped opportunity for installers and investors to reduce overall PV system and operational costs. We see shipments increasing fivefold and revenues from MLPE sales more than doubling by 2017 as markets like the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Australia continue to embrace and expand their use of microinverters and DC optimizers.”

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For more information on the report, please visit http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/report/the-microinverter-and-dc-optimizer-landscape-2014