BTI Invertor report


The report highlights various technical and commercial aspects related to inverter operations in solar projects.


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Share of string inverters in the Indian solar market is increasing rapidly. It went up from only 1% until 2016 to 9% in 2017 for new utility scale solar capacity commissioned. We expect the trend to accelerate even further in the coming years.

Figure: Use of central and string inverters in India in utility scale projects












Source: BRIDGE TO INDIA research

Increased adoption of string inverters for utility scale projects is in line with experience in other international markets including USA and China. About 50% of utility scale capacity installed in China in 2016 used string inverters. In the USA, string inverter share is expected to grow up to 28% in 2020. Key reasons for increasing share of string inverters are as follows:

  • Flexibility and yield: Although efficiency of central inverters is usually higher in comparison to string inverters (about 99% vs 98.5%), string level optimization can deliver better power output with string inverters due to increased reliability and redundancy;
  • Installation time: String inverters can be installed much faster than central inverters as they do not need special containers or civil structures for housing – useful for projects with tight deadlines;
  • System availability and maintenance: String inverters can be easily replaced in case of any issue reducing the plant downtime whereas, owing to their large size, central inverters require dedicated on-site technical support;

Huawei and Sungrow, both Chinese companies, are the biggest proponents of usage of string inverters for utility scale segment. But we believe that with growing acceptance of string inverters, a few leading European companies are also looking to offer string inverters.

The main advantage for central inverters is their low upfront cost and maintenance cost. However, string inverters provide savings in BOS costs due to no requirement of string combiner boxes, container or civil structures etc. Further, falling capital and maintenance costs of string inverters means that cost advantage of central inverters has narrowed significantly in the last few years. Ultimately, the decision of string vs central inverters depends on individual project factors such as location, size, site contours and uniformity, site accessibility and installation time available.

For more details of Indian inverter market and various design and operation issues related to inverters, download our report, Inverter Design and Selection.


As the Indian rooftop solar market grows, it is attracting more attention from investors and financiers. Shell is rumoured to be entering the market in partnership with Fourth Partner, a leading rooftop solar EPC. Several other prominent IPPs, international developers, contractors and PE investors seem to be actively interested. Access to both equity and debt capital has improved significantly addressing one of the key market constraints.

  • Rooftop solar is growing steadily and expected to become a 3 GW market annually by 2021 as per our projections;
  • Growing market size and intense competition in utility scale solar are drawing new players to the market;
  • More favourable policy environment is needed to reduce risks and sustain financing interest;

International Solar Alliance (ISA) conducted a founding summit in Delhi over the last two days. The event was organized with great pomp with 21 heads of state attending besides Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and the French President, Emmanuel Macron. There were several new announcements on financing, project schemes and partnerships although most of these appear vague. That makes it difficult to assess real progress.

Karnataka’s attractive open access policy for solar projects is set to expire at the end of this month. That is leading to a rush in project development activity in the state, which already leads other states with a total installed open access based solar capacity of 334 MW. As much as 1,000 MW of new capacity is expected to be commissioned over February and March.

  • Many large developers have entered the Karnataka open access market to capitalize on the short window of cost exemptions;
  • Fierce resistance from DISCOMs, transmission companies and even regulators makes open access an unpredictable and challenging market;
  • We expect the market to muddle along at about 500 MW per annum driven by sporadic opportunities across select states;

While the solar industry anxiously awaits the safeguard duty decision, we have examined the rationale of policies favouring domestic manufacturing in a recent study. We have assessed the complete solar value chain – from manufacturing to project construction and operations – and evaluated each activity for employment and value creation to understand their overall impact on the economy.

Solar value chain can be broadly divided into upstream and downstream activities. The upstream activities comprise manufacturing of solar cells, modules, inverters and balance of system and downstream activities comprise project development, engineering, construction and operations. Our findings suggest that module manufacturing contributes a relatively minuscule amount of total economic benefit from solar sector:

  • 80% of total job creation in solar sector comes from downstream activities;
  • 87% of total value creation in solar sector comes from downstream activities;
  • Even within upstream activities, majority of job and value creation comes from manufacturing of balance of system components;

As part of the study, we have collected employment and cost data directly from various domestic and international manufacturers, EPC companies and project developers. We found that a 1,000 MW cell and module manufacturing line creates only 1,220 jobs. In contrast, manufacturing of inverters and various balance of system components for the same capacity creates almost 3x as many jobs. But bulk of job creation comes from project construction and operations.

Extrapolating these numbers, 10 GW of new solar capacity addition in a year – split 80% utility scale and 20% rooftop solar – creates 66,300 full time jobs in year 1, rising to 316,860 by year 25. The proportion of total jobs created in module manufacturing, inverter and BOS manufacturing, project development and construction and operation is 4%, 10%, 5% and 81% respectively over complete life-cycle of the projects.

Figure: Job and value creation for 10 GW solar capacity addition

Chart 1

Source: BRIDGE TO INDIA research

We have similarly estimated economic value creation, value of final finished goods less direct cost of key inputs, from each upstream and downstream activity. 10 GW of solar project capacity creates INR 5,42 billion (USD 8.4 billion) of total economic value, split between module manufacturing, inverter and BOS manufacturing, power generation as 10%, 3% and 87% respectively.

The analysis is conclusive – majority of job and value creation in solar sector comes from project development and power generation. Given the critical contribution of solar power to the Indian economy, the government needs to ensure that sector growth prospects are not harmed. Instead of trade barriers, manufacturing should be supported a range of genuine policy reforms including investment in R&D, creation of supply chain and associated infrastructure.

Please read our full report here.


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India Solar Navigator is a comprehensive, real-time, online database of government policies, tenders, projects and market players. The database covers both utility scale and rooftop solar markets.

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