The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increasing investment in wind energy and other renewable power sources and need for greater operational efficiency, and growing importance of technologies such as IoT, automation, and artificial intelligence. 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 generator maintenance.

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 generator maintenance is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Wind turbine generator maintenance is a process followed by wind farm owners and operators to keep the turbine generators on their farms in proper functioning order and operate at high efficiency. This can be of two types – preventative maintenance, which is a planned maintenance to increase the lifespan, and predictive maintenance, which is more advanced and monitors the real-time operating conditions of a wind turbine generator.

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 wind turbine generator maintenance.

Key players in wind turbine generator maintenance – 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 Gamesa Renewable Energy offers wind turbine maintenance for both onshore and offshore wind generation. The company maintains more than 82GW of wind generation plants and provides services for more than 34,000 wind turbines across 60 countries. It recently signed a firm order with Orsted for a 913MW offshore wind power project, which includes installation and a multi-year contract to service the turbines. It has developed innovative solutions such as service train & pit stop service and rotor blade ice detection system with innovative fibre optic sensor to optimise productivity, reduce downtime and extend the lifetime of ageing wind plants. The company is also developing an autonomous ultrasound system based on artificial intelligence for blade inspection.

GE Renewable Energy is a leading turbine supplier and has installed more than 49,000 wind turbines across the world. Its field service expertise and engineered solutions support smart maintenance and repair and ensure superior turbine performance. Recently, GE Renewable Energy and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult along with two UK companies, Eleven-I and Innvotek, developed an innovative robotic crawler to carry out vital maintenance work and a structural health monitoring system to monitor blade health.

Vestas Wind Systems has more than 54,000 wind turbines under service, among which more than 90% of wind turbines are delivering data for analysis. It provides the Active Output Management® (AOM) service concept to ensure the highest energy output at lowest generation costs. It was recently selected as a preferred turbine supplier for Atlantic Shores' 1.5GW offshore wind project in New Jersey, US.

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.