Microinverters and power optimizers continued to be the fastest growing segment of the photovoltaic (PV) inverter market, growing by 180% in 2011, according to a new report from IMS Research. Furthermore, IMS Research forecasts shipments of these disruptive technologies to grow by more than 70% in 2012 reaching nearly 900MW.

IMS Research’s latest report, The World Market for Microinverters & Power Optimizers – 2012,” revealed that shipments of the products grew by more than 180% last year and at the same time revenues surged by 160% to more than $200 million. The research firm predicts that combined shipments will grow again in 2012 to almost 900MW despite the relatively weak state of the PV industry as a whole. “Microinverter and power optimizer vendors have been somewhat insulated from the weak underlying demand and consolidation in the PV industry," explained Research Director Ash Sharma. "The technologies are still relatively new and growth is simply coming from capturing share from existing solutions such as string inverters. Microinverters have now carved out a significant portion of the U.S. residential market and have begun to make some inroads in Europe.”

Looking further ahead, the outlook for microinverters and power optimizers remains positive with the report predicting that they would capture more than 10% of the market in 2016, generating revenues of nearly $1.5 billion. While microinverters are expected to hold a greater share than power optimizers this year, optimizer shipments are forecast to accelerate over the next five years outpacing microinverters. “Whilst microinverters are likely to remain limited to mainly residential and small commercial systems, optimizers will more likely be used in even larger installations, expanding their addressable market," added Sharma. "Suppliers of the devices are also working closely with manufacturers of junction boxes, modules, and inverters to offer several new routes to market that will help to further accelerate adoption.”

According to the report five of the most attractive markets for microinverters and power optimizers will be the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan, which will see the disruptive technologies capturing up to a 25% share of the total markets by 2016. These five markets are predicted to continue to support a healthy residential and small commercial segment, be more accepting of new technologies (e.g. compared to Germany), and not enforce restrictive grid codes that may prevent microinverters or optimizers from being deployed.

Despite the research identifying more than 25 suppliers of microinverters and power optimizers, in 2011 the market was dominated by three suppliers: Enphase Energy, SolarEdge and Tigo that accounted for more than 90% of shipments. Given the raft of partnerships announced by other suppliers including Enecsys, SolarBridge Technologies, and tenKsolar, as well as the impending product releases of SMA and Power-One, the market is expect to fragment considerably.

IMS Research’s report, The World Market for Microinverters & Power Optimizers – 2012,was published in August and contains forecasts and analysis for this fast growing segment of the PV industry.