As the heart of the solar photovoltaic power generation system, the photovoltaic inverter converts the direct current generated by the photovoltaic power generation system into the alternating current required for daily life through power electronic technology. It is one of the most important core components of the photovoltaic power station.

What are the industry trends for photovoltaic inverters? And what are the trends of industry-leading inverter companies? Find out in this article!


1. String inverters becoming the mainstream

According to the technical route of photovoltaic inverters, photovoltaic inverters can be divided into large centralized photovoltaic inverters, string photovoltaic inverters, distributed photovoltaic inverters and micro inverters. String inverters account for nearly 70% of the market, becoming the mainstream of the market.

According to CPIA statistics, in 2021, the photovoltaic inverter market will still be dominated by centralized inverters and string inverters, with distributed inverters accounting for a smaller share. String inverters accounted for 69.6%, centralized inverters accounted for 27.7%, and distributed inverters had a market share of approximately 2.7%, a year-on-year decrease of 2.3%.


1-1. Reasons for the increase in the share of string inverters

①String inverters have advantages in product performance

  • The string tracking method has a large number of paths and is suitable for complex terrain; The string inverter MPPT has a wide operating voltage range and can be started at low voltage, extending the power generation time during the day, thereby increasing power.
  • The design of multi-channel MPPT reduces the number of strings connected to each MPPT of the inverter. If a component fails, it will have little impact on another string under the same MPPT and will have almost no impact on the remaining strings under the MPPT.
  • In addition, string inverters are small in size, light in weight, can be installed outdoors, and are easy to maintain. Therefore, string inverters are suitable for areas such as mountains and rooftops where photovoltaic modules are oriented in different directions or where light resources are insufficient.

② Narrowed cost gap between string and central inverters

According to CPIA statistics, the price of centralized inverters has dropped from 0.28 RMB/W in 2014 to about 0.11 RMB/W in 2021, and the price of string inverters has dropped significantly, from 0.54 RMB/W in 2014 to 0.17 RMB/W in 2021. The price difference between the two has narrowed from 0.26 RMB/W in 2014 to 0.07 RMB/W in 2021.

With the rapid increase in the penetration rate of string inverters, various inverter manufacturers are also increasing their efforts for technology research and development. It is expected that the cost of string inverters will fall faster, and the price difference between string inverters and centralized inverters has further narrowed.

Taking into account the low installation and maintenance costs of string inverters and the power generation gain brought by multi-channel MPPT, the cost performance of string inverters has gradually become more prominent.  


③The proportion of global distributed photovoltaic installed capacity has increased.

After reaching a peak of 74% in 2016, the proportion of global centralized photovoltaic installed capacity began to decline, while the proportion of distributed installed capacity increased.

Taking China as an example, in the first half of 2021, China's new photovoltaic installed capacity was 14.1GW, of which distributed photovoltaic installed capacity increased by 97.5% year-on-year, accounting for 62.03% of the total installed capacity; household installed capacity was 5.86GW, a year-on-year increase of 187%.

On June 2022, in order to accelerate the development of rooftop distributed photovoltaics, the National Energy Administration of China organized a nationwide pilot project to promote the development of rooftop distributed photovoltaics in cities and districts. On September 8, the National Energy Administration announced a list of 676 counties (cities, districts) rooftop distributed photovoltaic development pilots across the country.

In the future, with the increase in the proportion of global distributed photovoltaic installed capacity and China's policy of promoting distributed photovoltaic construction, the market share of string inverters will further increase.


2. Chinese inverters achieve global expansion

Chinese companies account for more than half of the global inverter market, with Huawei and Sungrow firmly ranking in the top two. Since 2015, Huawei and Sungrow have consistently ranked among the top two in the world in terms of shipments. According to statistics, global inverter shipments was 225GW in 2021. Six of the top 10 companies in the world are from China, and these six companies account for the global share as high as 66%.

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2-1. Reasons for the increase in global share of Chinese companies

① The price of a single watt of Chinese inverters is lower than that of other countries, giving it a price advantage

Judging from the comparison of the unit prices of inverters in 2021, Chinese companies Sunshine, GoodWe, and Growatt sold for about 0.1-0.2 RMB per watt, while SMA sold for 0.55 RMB per watt, and the prices of Solaredge and Enphase were 2.16 RMB/W and 2.98 RMB/W respectively, which are much higher than the prices of Chinese companies.

Chinese companies' products are low-priced and of high quality, and they are rapidly seizing global market share through price strategies. ​ The price advantage comes from the low cost of Chinese companies, because the cost of raw materials is low and labor costs are also relatively low. Inverters are updated very quickly.

Through the optimization of circuit design, the cost can be reduced between different generations of products. Therefore, there are higher requirements for manufacturers’ R&D capabilities and R&D investment.

The overall salary level of Chinese R&D personnel is lower than that of European and American companies. In addition, as the only country in the world that has all industrial categories, China has obvious cost advantages in the production of various raw materials. Direct materials account for more than 85% of the cost of inverters.

Therefore, from a perspective of cost, Chinese inverter companies rely on China's supply chain to achieve lower production costs on the one hand, and on the other hand they can achieve low R&D expenditures and high R&D efficiency with the help of low labor costs. They have obvious cost advantages in competition with other companies.


② Chinese companies have a wide range of product performance, fast service response, and outstanding cost performance

Chinese companies' inverter products have a wider power range and more product categories. According to statistics, the top five component manufacturers in the world in 2021 were all Chinese companies. Based on the advantages of China's strong industrial chain, Chinese inverter manufacturers can more quickly identify technological trends in photovoltaic modules and carry out product iterative upgrades.

In addition, Chinese inverter manufacturers rely on faster response to customer needs, shorter product development cycles, better global sales network layout, and more timely and effective after-sales services to gradually seize the market of global brands.

3. Further improved inverter power

Cost reduction of photovoltaic power generation systems is still a general trend. Higher-power components can reduce the cost per watt. In order to adapt to the trend of larger components, the power and current of photovoltaic inverters have been further increased.

In order to increase the power of components and reduce the cost per watt, components are developing towards larger sizes. Silicon wafer sizes have reached 166mm (M6), 210mm (G12), etc.

Since 2019, high-power components based on large-size silicon wafers have become the mainstream trend in the photovoltaic industry, and various component manufacturers have launched 182mm and 210mm components. According to CPIA data, the combined proportion of 182mm and 210mm size silicon wafers rapidly increased from 4.5% in 2020 to 45% in 2021, and their proportion will continue to expand rapidly in the future.

The larger the silicon wafer size, the higher the component current. The current of a 166 wafer size module is about 11-12A, but when the wafer size increases to 182, the module operating current is close to 13A on one side, and over 15A on both sides. If it is a large 600W+ module and the current is close to 18A, 210mm , the component current will increase to about 18A.


In order to adapt to high-current components, the inverter current needs to support up to 20A/string and have component-level shutdown capabilities. In the past few years, component current has generally remained around 10-13A.

Taking into account factors such as double-sided coefficient and radiation enhancement, the current mainstream inverter current on the market is 15A/string. For high-current components, the inverter current needs to support 20A/string. If the inverter with 15A/string is still used, severe DC power limitation will occur.

At the same time, as the component current and the number of inverter strings increase, the risk of inverter failure and fire will also increase. Therefore, high-current inverters also need to have component-level shutdown capabilities.


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