Recent research by Jessika Trancik, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Luis Bettencourt, of the Santa Fe Institute, focused on the rate of global patenting activity surrounding renewable energy technologies. The two researchers compiled a database of 73,000 patents from more than 100 countries registered between 1970 and 2009.
The database shows innovation in renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, is booming worldwide, especially in China. Interestingly enough, the filing rate in this sector has now surpassed that of the fossil fuel industry. This momentous change occurred in just one generation, according to the researchers.
In the U.S., the number of renewable-energy patents filed yearly exceeded 1,000 by 2009, up from fewer than 200 annually between 1975 and 2000. The need for solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies is not limited to concern about climate change, according to USA Today, but is a business imperative for many firms.
The researchers chose to measure innovation in the renewable energy field through patents filed, rather than metrics like installation of alternative energy sources, in part because many of the more astonishing ideas are still in development and not yet commercially available. Of those that have been patented, many innovations in this industry promise to have a great impact on the energy industry in America and around the world.