The power industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is 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 656,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in power: solar thermal collectors. 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 stabilizing 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.

40+ 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 70,000 patents, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, solar-powered charging stations, wind turbine performance monitoring, and renewable energy storage are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Foldable solar panels, solar thermal collectors, and geothermal collectors are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are wave energy converters and solar cell protective films, 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 100+ 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 applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

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

Patent volumes related to solar thermal collectors

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Flex 51 Unlock Company Profile
W&E International Canada 42 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 41 Unlock Company Profile
Magaldi Group 39 Unlock Company Profile
GlassPoint Solar 29 Unlock Company Profile
Babcock & Wilcox 21 Unlock Company Profile
Zhongying Changjiang International New Energy Investment 21 Unlock Company Profile
Sun'R 15 Unlock Company Profile
Sungevity 15 Unlock Company Profile
Array Technologies 14 Unlock Company Profile
Ecoppia Scientific 13 Unlock Company Profile
Suncore Photovoltaics 13 Unlock Company Profile
Brenmiller Energy 12 Unlock Company Profile
Greenfield Solar 12 Unlock Company Profile
Abengoa 11 Unlock Company Profile
Exosun 11 Unlock Company Profile
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation 10 Unlock Company Profile
Wilson Solarpower 10 Unlock Company Profile
AMETEK 10 Unlock Company Profile
REM Tec 9 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 8 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 8 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 8 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 7 Unlock Company Profile
Quantitative Heat 7 Unlock Company Profile
Drift Marketplace 7 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 7 Unlock Company Profile
BrightSource Energy 7 Unlock Company Profile
Larkfleet 7 Unlock Company Profile
Synhelion 6 Unlock Company Profile
Eni 6 Unlock Company Profile
EMCORE 6 Unlock Company Profile
Energy Laboratories 6 Unlock Company Profile
Armageddon Energy 6 Unlock Company Profile
BWX Technologies 5 Unlock Company Profile
Power Construction Corporation of China 5 Unlock Company Profile
Sunrun 5 Unlock Company Profile
HST Solar Farms 5 Unlock Company Profile
AECOM 5 Unlock Company Profile
eSolar 4 Unlock Company Profile
Locus Energy 4 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 4 Unlock Company Profile
Abu Dhabi Power 4 Unlock Company Profile
Harbin Electric 4 Unlock Company Profile
Durr 4 Unlock Company Profile
Carrier Global 4 Unlock Company Profile
Liyuan 4 Unlock Company Profile
Alarmcom 4 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 4 Unlock Company Profile
Guotsing 4 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

GlassPoint Solar is one of the leading patent filers for solar thermal collectors. The New York-based company 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. GlassPoint Solar signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s leading mining company Ma’aden in June 2022 to develop the world’s largest solar process steam plant. 

Another leading patent filer, 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 launched the next generation thermal storage technology, bGen™ ZERO, in August 2023.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the power industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) in 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.