The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for growth in renewable power generation, and growing importance of technologies such as geared turbofan engines (GTF), continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and magnetic levitated bearings. 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: Wind turbine gearbox.

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

Wind turbine gearboxes are a key emerging innovation area in environmental sustainability

A gearbox is typically used in wind turbines to transform low-speed, high-torque wind turbine rotation to a higher speed required by the generator. Generally, for wind turbine gearbox, operational conditions are challenging, and life expectations are high.

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 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of wind turbine gearbox.

Key players in wind turbine gearboxes – 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’.

ZF Friedrichshafen, a subsidiary of Zeppelin-Stiftung , is a technology provider offering a wide range of both automotive and non-automotive products. Through ZF Wind Power, it has developed a new kind of modular gearbox platform, which can maximise energy production at every site and provides cost-effective turbine designs for all markets. Recently, ZF Wind Power invested in a Test & Prototype Center to empower a sustainable future.

Winergy , a leading system supplier to the wind market, offers a wide range of products such as hybrid drive, gearboxes, generators, direct drive segments and wind couplings. Winergy ’s latest product innovation High DensityX increased torque density by more than 25 percent. It has also introduced journal bearing technology for its high-speed gearboxes.

Moventas is a Finnish wind turbine gearbox manufacturer, whose most innovative product platform is its Exceed Gearbox Series. In April 2022, Flender , a global drivetrain specialist, acquired Moventas .

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.