The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the growth in renewable power and need for increased energy yield and optimised operations, and growing importance of technologies such as fuel cells, battery storage and smart solar tracking. In the last three years alone, there have been over 439,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Power: Solar tracker. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

90+ innovations will shape the power industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the power industry using innovation intensity models built on over 83,000 patents, there are 90+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart lighting system, PCM thermal energy storage, and solid electrolyte fuel cell membrane are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Ceramic oxide nuclear fuel, geothermal heat pumps, and hybrid PV plants are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are combined-cycle gas turbines and ethylene co-polymer PV modules, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the power industry

Solar trackers is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

A solar tracker is an electro-mechanical system that allows solar photovoltaic panels or reflective surfaces to track the path of a sun to continually receive the optimal direct solar irradiance.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of solar trackers.

Key players in solar trackers – a disruptive innovation in the power industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to solar trackers

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Flex 72 Unlock Company Profile
Sunfolding 41 Unlock Company Profile
Abengoa 36 Unlock Company Profile
CEWA Technologies 35 Unlock Company Profile
SolarReserve 33 Unlock Company Profile
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Angewandten Forschung 30 Unlock Company Profile
AMETEK 25 Unlock Company Profile
Well Tech Services 23 Unlock Company Profile
Tesla 23 Unlock Company Profile
SolarEdge Technologies 19 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 19 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 17 Unlock Company Profile
Hon Hai Precision Industry 16 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsui E&S Holdings 15 Unlock Company Profile
Exosun 15 Unlock Company Profile
Driven Brands Holdings 14 Unlock Company Profile
TM tech 14 Unlock Company Profile
eSolar 12 Unlock Company Profile
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 12 Unlock Company Profile
SolFocus 12 Unlock Company Profile
Novatec Solar 12 Unlock Company Profile
Sungchang Enterprise Holdings 11 Unlock Company Profile
Tekniker 11 Unlock Company Profile
CEA 11 Unlock Company Profile
Shadecraft 10 Unlock Company Profile
TTP 10 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo Electric Industries 10 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 9 Unlock Company Profile
Airlight Energy Holding 9 Unlock Company Profile
Power Construction Corporation of China 9 Unlock Company Profile
Nabtesco 9 Unlock Company Profile
Qbotix 9 Unlock Company Profile
Ecoppia Scientific 8 Unlock Company Profile
Daikin Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
Paru 8 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 8 Unlock Company Profile
Cosmo Energy Holdings 8 Unlock Company Profile
Suncore Photovoltaics 8 Unlock Company Profile
HelioFocus 7 Unlock Company Profile
BrightSource Energy 7 Unlock Company Profile
Array Technologies 6 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 6 Unlock Company Profile
Moteurs Leroy Somer 6 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 6 Unlock Company Profile
Osolar 6 Unlock Company Profile
FTC Solar 5 Unlock Company Profile
Raygen Resources 5 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi 5 Unlock Company Profile
EMCORE Solar Power 5 Unlock Company Profile
CSP Services 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Flex's affiliate NEXTracker is one of the leading patent filers in smart solar tracking solutions for PV projects of all sizes to transform plant performance with advanced data monitoring and analysis software and services. Its TrueCapture and NX Navigator smart monitoring and control software platforms have revolutionised tracker performance. Flex recently entered into an agreement to sell $500m convertible preferred equity in NEXTracker to TPG Rise Climate.

Other key patent filers in the solar tracking solutions industry include Sunfolding, SolarReserve, Abengoa, Ecoppia Scientific and Exosun. Sunfolding, a supplier of innovative solar tracking technology, offers a new TopoTrack™ solution using its airlink technology, which virtually eliminates grading for solar projects on variable terrain and maximises profitability by deploying trackers on land previously off limits to utility-scale solar.

Ecoppia Scientific is the pioneer and market leader in connected, artificial intelligence and data-driven smart robotic cleaning solutions for single-axis solar trackers. Ecoppia’s H4 with helix technology represents the pinnacle of innovation in robotic cleaning solutions and makes it unique in the market. In terms of application diversity, Sunfolding leads the pack, followed by Ecoppia Scientific.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the power industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Power.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.