The UK’s largest offshore wind event, renewableUK’s Global Offshore Wind, is due to take place in Manchester across 21-22 June 2022. Industry leaders and policy makers from across the globe will gather to discuss the role of offshore wind in achieving net zero, and how the next generation of offshore wind technology can help to achieve this vital goal. Whilst offshore wind has garnered more and more attention in recent years, still only about 2% of the capacity required to reach that goal is currently installed, demonstrating that offshore wind still has a long way to go.
Innovation will be essential in expanding and improving offshore wind technologies by solving the variety of technical problems involved in manufacturing, assembling, installing and operating the next generation of 15-megawatt offshore wind turbines. Floating offshore wind is an example of a breakthrough technology that offers a potential solution to some of the challenges facing offshore wind development and commercialisation. Floating offshore wind utilises floating structures to support wind turbines at sea, rather than relying upon the fixed structures that are traditionally used. By using floating structures, wind turbines may be located further offshore in traditionally inaccessible areas that have greater potential for harnessing wind energy. However, floating offshore wind brings its own technical challenges.
Intellectual property will continue to play an important role in both fostering, accelerating and rewarding innovation to overcome such technical challenges. A recent joint study by the European Patent Office and the International Energy Agency titled “Patents and the energy transition – Global trends in clean energy technology innovation” highlighted floating offshore wind as a high priority field in which further innovation is needed to maximise the potential of the technology. The joint study also found that inventions relating to wind energy in general generated the second greatest patenting activity (behind solar energy) in the low-carbon energy technologies, with 17000 international patent families directed towards wind energy technologies being filed between 2000 and 2019. Across this entire period there were approximately two international patent families relating to onshore wind for every one international patent family relating to offshore wind. It will be interesting to see if and how this relationship changes over the coming years as greater strides are made in offshore wind technologies.
To this end, the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and Energy Transition Zone have recently announced that they will collaborate and jointly invest to create a £9m National Floating Wind Innovation Centre set to be located in Aberdeen. The National Floating Wind Innovation Centre will focus on accelerating technical advances in floating offshore wind, including supporting the generation of new and innovative products and methods within the sector. With Offices across the UK, including Aberdeen and Manchester, Marks & Clerk are well positioned to assist with all intellectual property matters that will inevitably arise through this project and the Global Offshore Wind event.
As a final point, it is worth noting that many national patent offices offer advantages to inventors of low-carbon technologies. For example, the UK Intellectual Property Office offers a “green channel” which allows applicants to request accelerated processing of their patent application if the invention has an environmental benefit. There is no official fee for using this service, and the applicant need only file a written request indicating how their invention is environmentally friendly. The applicant may select which actions they wish to accelerate, including search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication of their patent application.
In the lead up to Global Offshore Wind 2022, we will further explore some of these issues including the technical challenges in producing power offshore in comparison to onshore, the possibility of increased innovation in the offshore sector, and the ability of the electrical grid to handle increased production levels from offshore wind turbines.
Experts from Marks & Clerk will be in attendance at the event. If you would like any further information regarding the green channel, or any other aspect of intellectual property, then get in touch to arrange a meeting.