The first quarter of 2019 now lies behind us. These last months have been very exciting for me. I have had many good conversations with customers at home and abroad. These have enhanced my understanding of the requirements placed by installers, distributors, investors, project developers and EPCs on SMA. In China, we have concluded the sale of the SMA companies to the local management there. In Germany, we were able to execute the unfortunate but necessary reduction of approximately 100 full-time positions in a socially responsible manner with a voluntary severance program. Thus, we are well on the way to guiding SMA back onto a profitable course and to achieving our sales and earnings targets for 2019. This is supported in particular by the very good order intake since the beginning of the year.
High order intake to ensure sales growth in second half-year
Our product-related order volume has risen by one third over the initial three months of the year. Our total order volume will have a positive effect on our results this year. The Managing Board is already expecting a slight rise in sales in the second quarter and another substantial increase in the third and fourth quarters.
Over the past weeks, we have won orders for three multi-megawatt storage projects in the U.S. and Germany. Our new and highly innovative Sunny Central UP is proving extremely popular with international customers. With up to 4.6 megawatts, the Sunny Central UP in the same housing delivers around 50 percent more power than our largest central inverter to date. Using this product, our customers can substantially reduce the number of inverters in large 1,500 V PV power plants, allowing them to make substantial savings on capital investment and operating costs. In addition, the Sunny Central UP has integrated interfaces for the coupling of storage systems on both the AC and DC sides. Especially for the U.S. project market, the inverter has been launched at exactly the right time. Since the tax advantage (ITC) for photovoltaics will be reduced still further at the first quarter of 2020, project developers, investors and EPCs in the U.S. are pushing the construction of large PV power plants – and are ordering our Sunny Central UP.
Positive trend in all segments
I am certain that the positive trend in incoming orders will continue not only in the storage and large-scale PV power plant segment, but also in the segments for private and commercial applications. Our partner program SMA PowerUp for installers has already been successfully launched in Australia, and we will be rolling out and developing it in other countries over the coming months. In addition, we have started to sell complete system packages for residential and commercial applications in select markets within Europe. They feature perfectly matched hardware and software for PV, storage and energy management as well as service components. This makes business much easier for installers and generates a pull effect among distributors because installers increasingly request the complete systems from them.
Top-notch inverters are the basis for our comprehensive solutions
Our innovative and high-quality PV inverters are the basis for these new system packages, and these will continue to form the core of our development activities and our entire business. Building on our inverter portfolio, we offer services that enable us to provide individual support for our different customer groups. These services range from free inverter monitoring for residential PV systems up to engineering services for the planning, grid integration and commissioning of large PV and storage power plants. The next step of our offer pyramid comprises complete systems such as the one described above, including storage and energy management. And finally, we make it easier for our customers to enter the complex new world of energy with digital services, e.g., for integration into the energy market. This includes our new direct marketing solution SMA SPOT, which we developed together with MVV Energie AG.
As you can see, a lot has happened at SMA over the past months. And there will be a lot more happening in the coming months. At Intersolar Europe in May, for example, we will be showcasing our new SMA EV-Charger for the easy charging of electric vehicles with cost-effective, self-generated PV electricity. We will also introduce the 360-degree support for installers and the SMA DC coupling system for the easy integration of large storage devices into PV power plants; this system has been nominated for the ees AWARD. I am already looking forward to meeting many customers again in Munich and talking with them to find out how we can support their businesses even more effectively.
Here SMA CEO Jürgen Reinert writes about topics that move him.