The Microinverter and DC Optimizer Landscape 2014: The Evolution From Market Niche to Market Success

by Paul Grana

Microinverters and DC optimizers (collectively known as module-level power electronics, or MLPE) comprise one of the newest and fastest-growing sectors in the solar industry. The product segment surpassed 1 GW of annual volume and over 2 GW of cumulative installed capacity in 2013, just four years after the first contemporary products entered the market. While initially considered a niche solution for residential or shaded rooftops, the category has consistently expanded its appeal, to the point where nearly half of the MLPE category’s volume is in the commercial-scale market, particularly for DC optimizers. The module-level electronics providers have done this by evolving their value proposition while simultaneously reducing product costs.

Thus far, the landscape has been dominated by a few players -- Enphase Energy and SolarEdge Technologies, with Tigo Energy a distant third – accounting for 88% of capacity shipped in 2013. Yet, new players are joining every day, many with significant venture or private backing. At the end of 2013, the distributed optimization market had been fueled by over $600 million of venture and public capital - not including internal corporate development - even though it still accounts for just 2.5% of the overall PV market. While the growth of the space has surpassed expectations, it remains one of the most hotly contested sectors in solar: skeptics still dismiss the overall value of the products, while the bulk of industry discussion has turned to where, and how much, the sector will evolve. 

FIGURE: Module-Level Power Electronics Taxonomy

Source: GTM Research

At over 130 pages, this new report describes the MLPE market's transition into its second chapter. In it, incumbent companies are initiating growth strategies as a new group of well-funded competitors enter the space. The report analyzes the value proposition and cost-benefits of module-level power electronics, provides a competitive landscape of the market, and forecasts growth globally and by region.

Companies profiled in the report include:

Ampt | APS | Draker / Solar Power Technologies | Empower Micro | Enphase Energy | Enecsys | I-Energy | LG Electronics | Petra Solar | Power-One | ReneSola | SMA | SolarBridge | SolarEdge | Sparq Systems | Tigo Energy | Volterra Semiconductors / Maxim Integrated

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Paul Grana Consultant

Paul Grana is the founder of Folsom Labs, a leading provider of design and performance modeling tools for the solar PV industry. Previously, he was the director of product management for Tigo Energy. He has also worked for eIQ Energy and Abound Solar, and is the lead inventor on a patent regarding combiner box design.

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