24th jul, 2010

Who is ahead in wind power market?

In today’s Berlingske (Danish Newspaper) there is a story about how Danish Windmill company Vestas will be hard pressed the coming years as the Asian tigers get more competitive.  Being in the power/energy business I decided to see it in a patent perspective. I researched the number of patents published from 2007 – 2009 relating to wind power. The number of patents and the growth can give an indication who is on top and who will be. The number of patents is an indicator of technology development – innovation – and intellectual property bargaining power.  My findings were pretty interesting (in my opinion).  I started out by examining how many patents were issued in the “windmill category”. In patent language it is the number of patents in class F03D. The numbers show quite an increase in published patent applications (16 – 25%). To examine the idea that Vestas is coming under pressure from other companies I looked at the development of the number of published patents from wind power companies. I made a general survey of patents issued to the market leading companies (and Asian companies) from 2007 -2009.

  From the results the conclusions in the article claiming that Vestas is under an increasing pressure does not make sense. Vestas is by far the technology leader when it comes to patents – technology. If there is pressure it has to be from Vestas costs or other market forces.  Looking at other patent classes the picture is somewhat different. But given the fact that these classes cover other technical areas the numbers does not diminish Vestas´s strength.


One thing I did wonder how ever was the fact that out of the 4869 patents published in class F03D in 2009 only 324 was from the companies mentioned in the article or on my list. Who applied for the remaining patents. The answer is somewhat surprising (probably not to the ones having market knowledge). For one thing a large number of seemingly lone inventors from South Korea are applying for patents in this area (supporting the awakening Asian tigers theory). I also found out that Mitsubishi has 600 patents and a company called Wobben Aloys has 1725 I total.  So my conclusion is that the claim that Vestas is going to be hard pressed the coming years is not founded in technology. Vestas emerges as the technology leader and has the IP to protect its turf.   



Aloys Wobben is the owner of Enercon, a German wind turbine manufacture

Thanks, that does make the picture a bit clearer. And Vestas will have to take that IP portfolio into consideration

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