It’s World IP Day! This year, the day will not be celebrated in the traditional fashion; there will be none of the usual panels, receptions, gatherings or educational events that are organized annually to commemorate the holiday, which was launched in 2000 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). While some remote panels will be held in lieu of the traditional affairs, there are decidedly fewer organizations participating this year. Here are some of the virtual events, reports and statements focusing on World IP Day 2020— the official theme of which is, “Innovate for a Green Future.”
The Anhui solar farm is the world’s largest floating farm but its 40 MW capacity is much lower than other large photovoltaic power stations across the world. However, news reports have focused on the fact that the Anhui farm is the latest in a string of renewable energy plant construction projects, which have been ramping up in China. In recent years, that country’s central government has made steps towards building massive solar farms on land, including a 2,550-hectare plant in the Gobi Desert.
The number of U.S. patents granted for clean energy technology has recently dropped following a near 10-year period of growth. In fact, according to the Brookings Institute, the number of CleanTech patents granted in the country fell by a whopping nine percent between 2014 and 2016. When the economy picks up and things shift again, energy patents should be able to move forward, but for now, the uncertainty with the current Trump administration has brought things to a complete standstill.
As of late, the spike of clean energy technology innovation is slowing down in the United States, during a time that the Trump administration is aiming to drastically cut government research spending in the industry… The slump in clean energy patents is a direct result of the downturn in oil and gas prices, according to Morico. “When oil was trading at over $100 per barrel just before the crash in 2014, there was a lot of investment going into renewable/clean energy. After the prices of oil crashed, investors started cutting back their investments in renewable/clean energy because the costs of many of these technologies couldn’t compete with low oil and gas prices,” he explained.
A study of the economic impacts of air quality regulations on American manufacturing plants between 1972 and 1993 conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the economic cost of such regulations caused a decline of 8.8 percent of profits in the manufacturing sector. That’s $21 billion per year that did not go to employee wages and couldn’t be used on research and development. Reduced economic output in the face of rising population numbers also produces a drag on the overall economy and R&D initiatives are often the subject of the first budget cuts during economic downturns. All of this points to a downward spiral in which increased environmental regulations actually pose an obstacle to the development of the green economy in the United States.
Algal blooms are caused when algae living in seas or freshwater grow uncontrollably because of the presence of nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen; high temperatures and the underwater penetration of light also play roles in the process. Public health costs, however, are dwarfed by the price tag which algal blooms can put on industries requiring clean water, such as seafood, tourism and restaurants. Every year, harmful algal blooms (HABs), the toxic variety currently seen in Florida, cost about $82 million in lost economic output according to statistics published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Last year, algal blooms on the West Coast caused beaches in Washington State to close, preventing razor clamming at an estimated economic cost of $9 million over one month.
When looking specifically at patents that specifically mention “electric vehicles,” it looks as though there are reasons to feel good about America’s place in the world. Both Ford and General Motors Company are atop the leaderboard in this sector, placing first and second overall respectively. One Ford technology developed to allow electric vehicle owners to make sure that electricity drawn from a vehicle comes from renewable sources is outlined within U.S. Patent No. 9024571, entitled ‘Charging of Electric Vehicles Based on Historical Clean Energy Profiles.’ General Motors is hoping to change the perception that Electric Vehicles are capable of only short range use, as evident by recently issued U.S. Patent No. 9002552, titled “Compact Electric Range Extender for an Electric Vehicle.”
Fuels derived from biomass are not the only option being pursued to solve the problem of switching away from petroleum-based fossil fuels, or at least getting more mileage from those fuels. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140339367, titled Efficient Low Carbon Emission Airplane Integrating Jet Fuel and Cryogenic Fuel Systems, would protect a hybrid fuel airplane having at least one cryogenic fuel tank conforming to the airplane body’s outer mold line as well as a jet fuel tank located in the airplane’s wing. This configuration, developed by the Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) of Chicago, IL, would introduce the use of cryogenic fuels, which are fuels that require storage at extremely low temperatures in order to remain in a liquid state. Cryogenic fuels could be attractive for the airline industry because they create low emission levels and possess a high energy density per mass unit of fuel. One challenge, however, is that cryogenic fuels require large volume tanks because they have a low volumetric energy density per liter. It is because of these benefits and challenges that Boeing is pursuing alternative airplane designs to accommodate for the use of cryogenic fuels.
Tesla’s Powerwall batteries will come in two varieties: one a 10 kilowatt-hour (kWh) version for a weekly cycle unit designed for backup applications, the other a 7 kWh unit for everyday use. The batteries can be installed in groups of up to nine, providing a maximum of 90 kWh hours of backup energy (or 63 kWh of energy available daily). The dimensions of the Powerwall battery are about four feet tall and nearly three feet wide; its slender 7.1 inches of depth and sleek design gives it a form which fits neatly on most walls, inside or out. It can be installed in an afternoon and does not need major home rewiring. The 10 kWh model costs $3,500 ($3,000 for the 7 kWh version) although a homeowner must pay for installation and an inverter if the property includes solar panels.
One area where NASA has been placing a fair amount of its research focus is in developing design features that allow for reductions in an aircraft’s weight and the amount of drag it creates. The aeronautical research agency has entered into a partnership with the Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) of Seattle, WA, to test a couple of fuel efficiency technologies on a special Boeing 757 model known as the ecoDemonstrator. One NASA project utilizing the ecoDemonstrator is the Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project, which explores the benefits and risks of new vehicle design concepts. On the Boeing ecoDemonstrator, NASA installed a series of 31 sweeping jet actuators which are capable of on-demand manipulation of airflow over the vertical tail of an aircraft. The use of the sweeping jets would provide the stability and directional control usually supplied by the aircraft’s vertical tail, allowing manufacturers to reduce the tail’s size and the overall drag of the aircraft. A separate ERA project involving the ecoDemonstrator will test the insect repellant properties of various repellents for an Insect Accretion and Mitigation study. Even a small bug can disrupt the laminar flow of air over the leading edge of a wing, increasing drag and reducing fuel efficiency by as much as six percent. The Insect Accretion and Mitigation study will take place between April 27th and May 15th near the area of Shreveport, LA.
Although the consequences posed by climate change could be dire, there’s no reason to believe that human ingenuity and innovation cannot provide a path forward to answer these challenges… Methods of developing fuel from biological sources on the earth is often a less energy-intensive process than mining for oil or natural gas deep below the earth’s crust, further reducing the production energy required and, subsequently, the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Private sector investment in biofuels has been increasing. In 2012, bio-based chemicals and biofuels were responsible for $96 billion in U.S. business-to-business economic activity, according to the National Research Council. Near the end of March, Colorado-based Red Rock Biofuels recently announced a $200 million biofuels refinery that it would be operating in Lakeview, Oregon; the facility will refine pine needles and sawdust into a jet fuel that will be used by Southwest Airlines.
To celebrate Earth Day we will profile green technologies and environmentally friendly innovations, like we always have. We will not, however, buy into the political rhetoric or hysterical claims pedaled by environmentalists as dogmatic fact. The truth is the predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists have never been accurate. Mainstream scientific publications are finally starting to recognize that for most of the last generation there is no evidence of global warming, the predictions made by environmentalists have been wrong and their factual claims to support their political agenda are false. For example, did you know that sea ice in Antarctic has been increasing, not decreasing?
The most recent patent applications published show that development of electric and hybrid electric vehicles are prominent among all three. Some of these patent applications describe novel applications of known energy generation and storage technologies, including air batteries and solar cells, to automobile environments. Self-driving cars manufactured by Toyota will benefit from a technology designed to improve the accuracy of determining a car’s actual location on the road. These three corporations each have strong patent portfolios which have increased in recent weeks and we took special notice of a couple of patents issued in the field of fuel cell technologies. Honda has earned the right to protect an indoor vehicle that drives in response to the tilting motion of a seated rider. We also feature two patents directed towards safety systems which are designed to provide warnings to drivers in response to potential road hazards.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there is a potential 4.15 gigawatts of energy which can be collected from offshore wind collection around the country’s waters. The total electric generating capacity of the entire nation was 1.01 gigawatts as of 2008. All of this energy can be collected from waters within 50 nautical miles of America’s shorelines… Offshore wind farms face unique problems in seafloor depth and corrosion from ocean water which can cause higher operational costs in the form of maintenance team transport and replacement components. Offshore wind technology development projects are needed to develop tools for engineering modeling and analysis which can spur further innovation and lower the facility costs for offshore projects.
General Electric has been awash in recently issued patents pertaining to medical technologies, and we discuss an intriguing collection of these inventions. One patent protects an improved anaesthesia delivery system that monitors oxygen levels in patients undergoing anaesthesia. Another protects a system for recognizing family relationships among patients for better tracking of medical histories. Finally, we look at a couple of patents protecting technologies for energy generation systems, including one protecting a method of monitoring communication networks in wind farms to quickly identify network issues which need to be fixed for accurate energy production reporting.