India is on pace to add over 8 GW of solar in 2019, according to the recent Q2 2019 India Solar market update published by Mercom India and is the third-largest solar market in the world. Based on Mercom’s forecast, the country is expected to remain one of the top solar markets for the foreseeable future.
With rising installations, the demand for solar inverters has also spiked in recent years, leading to increased competition in this segment.
To understand the challenges and scope solar inverter companies are facing as they strive for more rooftop solar business, Mercom sat down with Jianfei Li, vice president at Sineng on the sidelines of Renewable Energy India (REI) Expo 2019 to discuss market trends, opportunities, and challenges that they face as a solar inverter supplier in India.
How has the year 2019 been for you so far?
This year was not too bad. Our main business is in China, and as you know, the policies in China have been changing. So, we have most of our shipments in Q4, making this the busiest quarter for us. This year’s whole shipments, I believe is a little more than last year’s. The good news this year is that our overseas market is increasing. Earlier this year, we got a 1 GW order from Vietnam. In India, we are making progress step-by-step. In the Indian market, we think we can reach 1 GW mark of business this year. Next year, we should be doing better in the Indian market because our factory in Bangalore is almost ready and is already manufacturing for some of our customers.
This year we also expanded our presence in other global markets like in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.
What are the unique challenges you find in the Indian market?
The factory in India took us about two years to prepare as this was our first overseas factory. We opened the factory last year in August, and now we have more confidence regarding doing business here with a better commercial understanding of the market. Regarding the challenges in the Indian market, I think the first thing is the price. India is now the third-largest solar market in the world, and many inverter suppliers are now coming to the Indian market. The market is very competitive, but it also requires high quality. So, we have to face and manage to solve it. This also makes us improve our technologies to meet such requirements. Some of our new product launches carefully tap into the Indian market through some optimization. Even in this exhibition [REI], we have discussed with many of our clients what their real needs are as well as what their future needs are going to be. This information will help us to develop better products suited for the Indian market. India is an interesting market. Here, they want much more detailed information, so we know that the customers here are much more technical compared to other countries and they demand quality products.
Has the increased competition led to any change in your strategy?
The competition is good as it makes us improve our technologies and pushes us to go ahead. Sineng is now ten years old, and solar is our primary business. We aim to focus more on R&D (research and development) in this field, so we get better product, performance and system price. So, we do not just care about the equipment, but the total solution.
What are the trends in the inverter market currently?
In India, our central inverters make up a big piece of our market share. The reason for this is that the total system cost is the lowest in this case, and the technology is mature and reliable. So far, our primary focus in India has been on central inverters. That said, there is no single system or solution that fits all requirements. String inverters are definitely going to gain more traction in the country in the future as it is more flexible in its usage as compared to central inverters.
Tell us about some of your latest products?
Our star product is the 3.125 MW inverter that is currently our bestseller in the overseas markets. This product comes loaded with a lot of good features and has reliability and our latest innovations inside. Also, we have launched our 175 kW string inverter that can meet some special requirements.
What are some innovations that Sineng is working on?
Right now, we are developing not just the inverter but have also expanded our innovation to the whole power station system, the main target is that can further reduce the system cost at large. We are paying more attention to the trends and what our customers need. Our R&D team is very professional and gives us the confidence to develop and design products that meet the real requirements of our customers. The perfect product may or may not survive; the focus should always be on meeting the real requirements.
What are your expectations and predictions about 2020?
Not just in China, but worldwide, the reach of solar is increasing. With technical improvements, total system costs are also decreasing. So, the competition in this segment, when compared with other traditional forms of power, is also rising. So, not just in the next year but say, in the next three to five years, the market is only going to increase further. So, the following year is going to be great for this segment and solar sector at large.
How do you view the recent policy changes in China?
The policy change in China is a good move. Now, this year, many products coming out in the Q4 are without subsidies. This move will push the solar industry to improve. Companies who have their own technology may not fear this change.
As reported previously by Mercom India, in the first half of 2019, the top five solar inverter manufacturers in China accounted for 36.44% of inverter exports globally from China according to the latest trade data.
PV inverter giants, Siemens and Schneider, and ABB Group have slowly pulled out of the inverter business, leaving a void while Chinese companies continue to expand and consolidate their activities around the world.
Ankita is an editor at MercomIndia.com where she writes and edits clean energy news stories and features. With years of experience in the news business, Ankita has a nose for news and an eye for detail. Prior to Mercom, Ankita was associated with The Times of India as a copy editor for the organization’s digital news desk. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Delhi University and a Postgraduate Diploma in journalism. More articles from Ankita Rajeshwari.