The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by rising demand for power and a shift to renewable forms of generation in order to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, and the growing importance of technologies such as onshore and offshore wind turbines. 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: Turbine blade airfoils.

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

Turbine blade airfoils is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

An airfoil is a cross-sectional blade-like shape of the turbine blades that uses aerodynamic forces on the blades. It is a shaped surface like a tail or propeller blade that produces lift and drag movement through the wind. It extracts and uses wind energy to push the turbine blade which is then converted to electricity. Design of the airfoil optimises aerodynamic performance of a turbine blade and minimises noise while improving the structural sturdiness of a rotor blade.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of turbine blade airfoils.

Key players in turbine blade airfoils – 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’.

Siemens is one of the leading patent filers in the wind turbine rotor blade industry. The wind power subsidiary of the company, Siemens Gamesa, launched the recyclable blade that can be recycled after the end of its lifecycle. The first commercial installation of recyclable wind turbine technology was announced recently at RWE ’s Kaskasi offshore wind power project in Germany. The company has begun production of its 377 feet long B115 blades at its Aalborg facility in Denmark.

Other key patent filers of the industry include Vestas Wind Systems , Mitsubishi Heavy Industries , General Electric , Wobben Properties, and Lm Wp Patent.

Better and efficient airfoil design is an essential approach favoured by many wind energy players for optimised performance of wind turbines.

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.