Tokyo: A Japanese venture between Toshiba Corp. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. plans to use production plants in India, China and the US to expand sales of a key component for solar power generation.
Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corp. is building a second plant in Bengaluru in India slated to open in 2017. It already has a factory in Houston and two plants in China, one in Shanghai and the other in Yancheng.
“Now that we have completed localizing production in the three major countries, our next targets are emerging markets like Latin America, and Australia,” Hisayoshi Kobayashi, president of the company’s new energy and environmental business division, said in an interview.
The company, known as TMEIC, makes inverters for industrial- and utility-scale projects that convert the current flowing from solar panels into a form usable by national electric grids. The venture, which competes with companies such as SMA Solar Technology AG of Germany, is seeking to have the largest market share by 2020 in terms of sales and production capacity for units of 100 kilowatts or more.
TMEIC announced in March that its annual production capacity outside Japan will increase to 7 gigawatts by 2017 from less than 2 gigawatts currently.
The 50-50 venture between Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric also has a plant in Japan, where solar installations soared after the county introduced an incentive program for clean energy in July 2012. It’s on track to increase the ratio of inverter shipments outside Japan to 70% in two years from about 50% this year, said Shuji Tanaka, an official at the global marketing and engineering department.
The inverter market is facing increasing competition from Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies Co. and Sungrow Power Supply Co. Last year, they edged past SMA Solar, which had dominated the industry for the previous three years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The market was valued at $7 billion for 2015, according to BNEF estimates.
TMEIC announced in May that shipments for the year ended March were 3.6 gigawatts. That would put the company in fifth place, according to BNEF.
The company’s planned capacity addition does not directly imply a reduction in prices as demand for modules is also expected to grow, according to Lara Hayim, a solar analyst for BNEF. “It is also probably worth noting that inverters aren’t a commodity, and hence the relationship between supply and prices is not that straightforward,” she said.