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Yole: Inverter market to rocket to $71 billion in 2020

SiC, used in PV inverters, will have a market size of $43 million and GaN JFETs will be introduced in 2013
Yole Développement has announced its "Inverter market trends for 2013 - 2020 and major technology changes" report.

The publication provides a focus on the six most attractive applications (PV, wind turbines, EV/HEV, rail traction, motor drives and UPS) and a new analysis on power stack trend from the firm's previous report.

There is significant growth in the inverter market, which reached $45 billion in 2012 for motion and conversion.

Energy related topics have become more and more important in 2012 - vehicle electrification, renewable energies, electricity transportation, and as a direct result, the power electronics market has increased.

This growth is driven by a number of factors. These include high volume and cost pressure applications such as EV / HEV and high added-value markets like renewable energies and rail traction.

“We estimate the inverter market to be $45 billion in 2012 and to reach $71 billion by 2020. A total of more than 28 million units were shipped in 2012 and we estimate that will grow to 80 million units in 2020,” explains Brice Le Gouic, Activity Leader, Power Electronics at Yole Développement.

Thus, the main components of inverter, passive and semiconductor modules (that we will find in power stacks) represent enticing industries. The power module market was $1.9 billion in 2012 and passive components achieved a market size of more than $4 billion, including capacitors, resistors, connectors, busbars and - newly added in this updated report - magnetic components (inductors and transformers).

As expected, wide band gap semiconductor devices have also started to penetrate those high-end market segments:

SiC is present in PV inverters – a total market size of $43 million primarily driven by diodes inmicro-inverters, but also by JFETs – and GaN which should be introduced in 2013.

Semiconductor technological developments continue to evolve and sharpen inverter performance

Yole's 2012 investigation confirmed that semiconductor improvements enabled more efficient conversion, lighter systems and more reliable end-products.

IGBTs have improved (higher current density, thinner and faster), as have SiC and GaN based devices.

GaN could be delayed in its market introduction, but SiC is already here and several companies showed SiC power module capabilities all last year.

Adoption of power stack is driving the modular approach across applications.

The Power Stack is the custom design and manufacturing of an inverter’s sub-unit which includes only the core components: power semiconductor module, cooling system, capacitors, resistors, current sensors, busbars and connectors.

Power Stack is the innovative sub-system of an inverter. Inverter and device makers are becoming power stack manufacturers for several reasons:

• Vertical integration

• Access to several applications, since power stacks are less application-dependent than inverters

• Internal cost reductions

• Access to high-end markets

• Sustain R&D in-house

Large firms such as Ingeteam, Semikron or ABB are now involved, but power stack also interests smaller players such as AgileSwitch – former IGBT driver manufacturer – who are part of this about $500 million market.

Major changes are happening across the supply chain.

Power electronics often requires having several types of knowledge and experience gained know-how in mechanics, electronics, semiconductors, electrics, fluidics and hydraulics, and connectors. Therefore, development can be complicated and final products expensive.

Japanese and Chinese players, especially system makers, tend toward internal vertical integration and master the manufacturing processes of each sub-system and component.

 In the case of Japanese companies, this tendency is mostly driven by cost reduction and absorption of intermediary margins, whereas Chinese companies want to access the technology and show some proof of quality.

On the other hand, EU and US players are diversified and acquisition of new or complementary competencies (such as Mersen, Rogers or Power Integration) or high-end R&D and prototyping services (APEI, Primes, imec, GE Global Research) is becoming more common.

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