Solar Maintenance Market To Reach Record Levels

Invertor Replacement to Reach US$1.2 billion

The market for unplanned solar panel repairs is expected to reach US$16 billion by 2024, spurring new demand for breakbulk services as facilities near end of life, according to research by consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

Published figures suggest that annual solar plant operations and maintenance costs will grow to more than US$9 billion by 2024, with installed capacity growing by up to 125 gigawatts per year.
“Solar installations nearing inverter end of life will reach 21 gigawatts by the end of 2019, representing 3.4 percent of the global market. This increases to more than 14 percent of the total cumulative capacity over the following five years,” said Leila Garcia da Fonseca, Wood Mackenzie Principal Analyst.

Breakbulk Demand

Alongside the photovoltaic panels that generate electricity, modern solar farms include a range of increasingly large components requiring breakbulk transport and installation, such as: power invertors, transformers and array structures.
“Despite being the most significant and major component of a solar project, replacement of a solar inverter represents only 12 percent to 13 percent of the average O&M cost of a 50 megawatts solar power system. By 2024, inverter replacement costs alone will reach nearly $1.2 billion out of a total O&M opportunity of $9.4 billion,” da Fonseca said.

By 2024, Wood Mackenzie forecasts the solar industry will have 176 gigawatts of projects with inverters older than 10 years.

Digital Platforms

The need for connected digital analytics is also expected to drive significant breakbulk transport as older systems need to be replaced wholesale due to lack of interoperability.

“It doesn’t make sense for owners of projects close to end-of-life to deploy an expensive and intelligent platform. It wouldn’t make sense technically, nor commercially, as the data acquisition system might not support all digital system requirements,” da Fonseca said.

Following a modest decline in 2018, the global solar market is predicted to hit a record level this year with 114.5 gigawatts added. This momentum is expected to continue with annual installations of 120-125 gigawatts per year in the early 2020s.