Wind energy and sustainability. They are inextricably linked, but they can also be mutually exclusive. Fortunately, raw material extraction, rotor blade recycling, disturbing nature during installation are all issues that are already being tackled through innovation. One important step in this process involves ensuring that these innovations are protected by a patent. An invention is just waiting to happen. So stay ahead of the competition and don't forget to register your intellectual property.
Sustainability throughout the entire chain
Greening is desirable throughout the entire wind energy chain. Production, installation, distribution and storage all leave their mark. From raw material extraction and CO2 emissions during steel production to wind turbine installation and their impact on birds and fish. And, of course, recycling of the composite parts and other components at the end of their service.
The environmental benefits of wind energy outweigh the negative consequences even as things stand today. It only takes three to six months for a turbine to make up for the amount of CO2 released during its manufacture. During the approximately twenty years that a turbine is operational, it produces up to eighty times as much energy as it takes to build one (source: Milieu Centraal). However, this does not mean that we can simply sit back and relax.
The wind energy industry is very inventive when it comes to sustainability. They have for instance come up with a quieter way to install wind turbines so as not to disturb fish. And - following the success of this in Norway – are conducting research into whether it is a good idea to paint one of the rotor blades black to reduce bird strikes. The industry is also increasingly using new, circular materials that emit less CO2 during production. There is no single miracle solution when it comes to sustainability. It is the combination of various small innovations that make the industry greener.
Staying ahead of the competition
If you keep a close eye on legislation and regulations and continue to anticipate developments, you can stay very much ahead of the competition. However you must not forget to protect your new technology. It may not be immediately obvious that your company has come up with a novel and inventive solution, both of which are criteria for patentability, so you have to keep a close eye on the latest developments. You may also wrongly assume that a patent is pointless or too expensive.
Another misconception is that a patent can only be applied for if the technology is ground-breaking and complex. That is not the case either. The bar is lower than many people think. A practical improvement to an existing product or process can often also be patented. So please discuss your plans with a patent attorney.
Advantages of a patent
A patent ensures that you stay ahead of the competition. It gives you an edge over them: you have the exclusive rights to your invention. It also makes you more attractive to investors and increases the value of your business.
And if you want to share your invention with the world, you can still do so with a patent. By issuing licences you make your invention available to the entire industry. However, you then stay in control of who can and cannot use it.
Another important development is the imminent major modernisation of the patent system in Europe. On 1 October 2022, the unitary patent and the UPC are expected to be introduced. This makes patent protection even more attractive. More information on this can be found on the EP&C website.
In short: if you innovate in the wind sector make sure patenting forms part of your business strategy.