The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the rising demand for clean and sustainable energy and transition to cleaner and sustainable heating and cooling solutions, and growing importance of technologies such as transpired air collectors, evacuated tube solar collectors and concentrating solar systems. 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 thermal collectors.

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 thermal collectors is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

A solar thermal collector is a device in which solar energy is collected by absorbing solar radiation in an absorber and then transferring that heat to a medium (water, solar fluid, or air). Solar thermal collectors are either concentrating or non-concentrating.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of solar thermal collectors.

Key players in solar thermal collectors – 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’.

GlassPoint Solar is a New York-based company which intends to deliver the lowest-cost solar steam to power industrial processes and has been delivering solar process steam in commercial quantities since 2012, through its enclosed trough technology. It has been developing and improving this technology over the last ten years resulting in a portfolio of 100 issued and pending patents. More than 60 percent of installed base of solar process steam in the world uses GlassPoint’s enclosed trough technology. It recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s leading mining company Ma’aden to develop the world’s largest solar process steam plant. 

Bernmiller Energy offers sustainable thermal energy storage solutions and has developed bGen™, a patented high-temperature thermal energy storage technology based on storing heat using crushed volcanic rocks. It recently signed an agreement with Philip Morris to set up $9m heat storage system in Romania.

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

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.