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Intellectual Property Considerations In The Growing Renewable Energy Decommissioning Industry – Intellectual Property



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Intellectual Property Considerations In The Growing Renewable Energy Decommissioning Industry


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An eye towards sustainability has always been at the forefront
of the renewable energy industry, but in many cases, technology was
not able to catch up to the good intentions of the industry until
recently.

For example, from the outset, wind turbines were designed to be
produced with up to 90% recyclable materials. However, at the time,
certain components were near impossible to construct using only
recyclable materials, while also exhibiting the necessary strength
and durability required for effective and robust operation. The
most prominent of these components were turbine blades, which
required added strength to withstand constant environmental
exposure and damage, and motor housings which similarly had to
withstand constant vibration from continual motor operation.
Historically in both cases, non-recyclable fiberglass or glass
reinforced polymers were used in the construction of these
components, rendering them difficult to recycle.

Development at the cost of using such materials has overall been
successful, with wind turbines typically having a lifespan of up to
25 years. However, as the lives of first-generation wind turbines
come to an end, the issue of disposal of these non-recyclable and
non-reusable materials begins. Images of “wind turbine
graveyards” have circulated over the internet, raising
concerns about how future retired turbines will be disposed of.
Fortunately, the development of fully recyclable blades that do not
require fiberglass or glass reinforced polymers appears to be just
around the corner.

Current developments in the renewable energy industry raise many
opportunities in the area intellectual property. For example, in
many countries, the strength and structural stability of the
decommissioned blades are being utilized to reinforce concrete
walls, buildings, bridges, and other structures. On the chemical
side, processes to chemically break down turbine blades in order to
extract the fiberglass and other reusable materials that can be
used for future turbine blades, as well as a myriad of other
applications in the automobile, oil, and construction industries
are currently being developed. And materials scientists are hard at
work trying to develop new ways of constructing future turbine
blades to further improve their recyclability and the overall
sustainability of the wind turbine industry.

As a larger volume of older generation renewable energy sources
such as wind turbines near the end of their lives in the coming
years, the need for decommissioning and replacement services will
only grow, and competition will surely increase. Proactive planning
on the intellectual property front will protect existing companies
when these issues come to the forefront, and can also protect
bourgeoning companies in this fast-growing sector fighting for
market share. With the wide array of technologies involved,
companies will benefit by teaming up with Lewis Roca’s, patent
professionals who understand the renewable energy industry and the
underlying materials and can provide the best strategy on their
intellectual property needs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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