Solar Energy: Where’s the IP?

This data-file tracks 110,000 solar patents filed by geography, by company, by year, since 2000; but particularly in 2019.

Solar patent filings peaked in 2012-13 at 11,500 patents per year. Many  geographies have since slowed by 50-90%; except China, which hit a new peak off 3,500 patents in 2019, leading the industry.

A granular breakdown for 2019 tabulates 6,000 patents, including their descriptions, which you can interrogate fully. 14 out of the top 25 solar patent filers in that year were Chinese companies.

The largest US and European patent filers are also shown. So are the Majors, which have recently filed c30 patents per year (0.5% of the total), two thirds of which can be attributed to a single SuperMajor, looking to scale up in solar.

In 2022, we have updated the analysis, in particular, tabulating more parameters of solar cell efficiency improvements, and the industry’s latest push into TOPCon cells.

Solar Innovation at Big Oil?

“If you invest with the same technology as everyone else, you may get the same returns as everyone else”. This adage matters for renewables, where we gather single digit IRRs have become customary in solar tenders. Hence, we reviewed 37 distinct solar patents filed across the Oil Majors in 2018. Three ‘leaders’ stood out, each pursuing a different technology strategy in solar. The data-file includes brief summaries of the patents, who each Major partnered with, and our own assessment of each patent’s materiality.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.