IP in the UK’s Wind Energy Sector

The UK generates a substantial amount of renewable energy through wind power and it is set to increase generation in the near future by building more wind farms. As the UK seeks to become a world leader in the generation of renewable energy, we review the increasing patent activity in this technology and other aspects of building wind farms in the UK.

In October 2020 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech at the Conservative Party annual conference. He announced that “the UK government has decided to become the world leader in low cost clean power generation – cheaper than coal, cheaper than gas; and we believe that in ten years time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, with our target rising from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts.”

The same day the UK issued an accompanying press-release proposing the following policies:

  • £160 million will be made available to upgrade ports and infrastructure across communities like in Teesside and Humber in Northern England, Scotland and Wales to hugely increase our offshore wind capacity, which is already the largest in the world and currently meets 10 per cent of our electricity demand.
  • This new investment will see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK.
  • Offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030, based on current electricity usage, boosting the government’s previous 30GW target to 40GW.
  • A new target for floating offshore wind to deliver 1GW of energy by 2030, which is over 15 times the current volumes worldwide. Building on the strengths of our North Sea, this brand new technology allows wind farms to be built further out to sea in deeper waters, boosting capacity even further where winds are strongest and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of the next generation of clean energy.
  • A target to support up to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction, which will open in late 2021 - providing enough clean, low cost energy to power up to 10 million homes.

These were quickly followed by a ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ in November 2020 and a government White Paper entitled ‘Powering our Net Zero Future’ in December 2020 which repeated the UK government’s commitment to investing in wind power, alongside other renewable power sources and green technologies.

Wind power is already widespread in the UK and the government’s apparent commitment to expand it yet further makes the UK an important market for the deployment of wind technology. So, where does this technology come from? We review some characteristics of the patent landscape applicable to wind, including filing, grant and dispute profiles over time, to provide an indication as to how investment in wind technology has changed over time, who has made that investment and how they might expect to see a return on it.

We then review other kinds of IP important in the wind sector for deriving most value from operating wind farms in the digital age.

The patent searching carried out for this article was performed using Clarivate Analytics, who also provided the graphs included below.

Patents on wind technology

Patent filings over time

As technologies evolve, innovators file patents to protect their investment in research and development. According to our research, the international rate of patent filings in wind technology increased markedly between about 2007 and 2011, fell slightly before increasing again in about 2017 (see Figure 1, below showing number of patent applications filed by year of publication which is 18 months later than filing). This indicates that investment in wind technology increased substantially in the early years of the 21st century, leading shortly thereafter to an increase in the rate of patent filing. The downward trend in patent filing after about 2011 and 2017 could reflect a decrease in investment…

Full article available on PatentHub

Latest insights

More Insights