Innovation in solar, wind and other renewable power is booming worldwide, especially in China, and is now eclipsing that in fossil fuels — an about-face that occurred in just 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.
"It's good news," says study co-author Jessika Trancik, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noting power sources that emit little or no carbon dioxide help mitigate climate change. She attributes the increase to research funding and market demand, adding: "There's a lot of momentum in this area."