While parts of the renewable energy sector have had some tough times lately … biodiesel with the loss of the federal tax credit, ethanol with the food vs. fuel fight, the economic downturn and the tightening of the credit markets … it seems green energy has actually benefitted from the recession. Well, at least in the area of new ideas.
The Financial Times has details:
Not only did the funding model for much of the US renewable energy industry put the sector within a whisker of being dragged down in Wall Street’s wake, but the general economic climate also threatened to put numerous projects on hold.
But clean tech patents – admittedly only a rough indicator of industry sentiment – suggests a more confident picture. US patent filings for clean energy rose to their highest-ever level in the last three months of 2009, according to a report from consultancy Cleantech Group and intellectual property lawyers Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti:
U.S. patents for clean-energy technologies in 2009 were at an all time high with 200 more patents than 2008 at 1125.
… patents in fuel cells and hybrid/electric vehicles were each up over twenty percent over 2008 with solar patents up sixty percent and biomass/biofuel energy patents up two hundred sixty percent. Fuel Cells, wind, and biomass/biofuel energy patents were also at all time highs in 2009. In contrast, hydroelectric and tidal patents decreased in 2009 while geothermal patents were up only one patent over the year prior.
The article goes on to point out that while Silicon Valley is usually known for its venture capitalists going green, the real growth in renewable energy is being fueled by what’s happening in Detroit, with fuel cells dominating the conversation … four times the number of patents as closest competition wind and solar … and Honda, GM and Toyota are speaking the loudest.