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Wind, solar patents do about-face as renewable energy eclipses fossil fuels

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 5:33 p.m.

Innovation in solar, wind and other renewable power is booming worldwide, especially in China, and is eclipsing that in fossil fuels — an about-face that occurred in only one generation, new research shows.

In the United States alone, the number of renewable energy patents exceeded 1,000 annually by 2009 — up from fewer than 200 per year in the 1975-2000 period. In contrast, patents for coal, oil or gas technologies rose to about 300 in 2009, up from 100 annually in earlier decades.

Study co-author Jessika Trancik, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attributes the increase to research funding and market demand.

Worldwide, the number of wind patents increased 19 percent annually and solar ones 13 percent each year between 2004 and 2009, according to the study. Japan has the most cumulative solar patents, followed by the United States and China, but China is obtaining more of these patents than any other country in recent years.

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