SMA holds more than 1,500 patents - protection of intellectual property is becoming increasingly important

For almost 40 years, SMA Solar Technology AG (SMA) has been developing innovative technologies that make a crucial contribution to promoting the global expansion of photovoltaics and the transition to a safe, sustainable and cost-effective supply based on renewable energies. More than 1,500 patents and utility models granted worldwide and some 450 pending patent applications are testament to the company’s strong innovative prowess. In a field where competition is fierce, it is becoming increasingly important to innovative companies like SMA to protect their intellectual property.

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“SMA was recently granted its 1,500th patent,” said SMA CEO Jürgen Reinert. “This underlines our leading position among innovators of photovoltaic system technology. None of our competitors holds anywhere near as many patents in this field as we do. Our innovative strength is a major factor behind SMA’s success. Unfortunately, in the highly competitive environment of our industry, it is becoming increasingly common for competitors to use our patent-protected technology unlawfully. Any infringement of patent rights is theft of intellectual property and thus a serious breach of the rules of fair competition. We do, of course, take measures to protect ourselves through highly professional and effective intellectual property management. SMA is also continuously investing in new innovations, with annual research and development expenses exceeding €60 million.”

SMA has so far won all legal proceedings
In order to protect the company's intellectual property, SMA does not shy away from lengthy legal disputes. In addition to patent infringements by competitors, attempts by patent exploiters to assert unjustified claims against SMA are gaining in importance. To date, SMA has won all legal disputes both with competitors and with patent exploiters. The most recent cases include patent infringement proceedings against a competitor, in which SMA was granted full rights in the first instance by the Düsseldorf Regional Court in December, as well as two cases against patent exploiters before the Federal Patent Court and in the USA, which were both decided in favor of SMA in January.

SMA Solar Technology AG

As a leading global specialist in photovoltaic system technology, the SMA Group is setting the standards today for the decentralized and renewable energy supply of tomorrow. SMA's portfolio contains a wide range of efficient PV inverters, holistic system solutions for PV systems of all power classes, intelligent energy management systems and battery-storage solutions as well as complete solutions for PV diesel hybrid applications. Digital energy services as well as extensive services up to and including operation and maintenance services for PV power plants round off SMA's range. SMA inverters with a total output of around 85 gigawatts have been installed in more than 190 countries worldwide. SMA's multi-award-winning technology is protected by more than 1,500 patents and utility models. Since 2008, the Group's parent company, SMA Solar Technology AG, has been listed on the Prime Standard of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (S92) and is listed in the SDAX index.

Södra first in the world with fossil-free biomethanol

Södra has built the world’s first plant for commercial biomethanol, a sustainable fuel from forest biomass, at Södra’s pulp mill in Mönsterås. Over the next few days, a first pilot delivery will go to Emmelev A/S, a customer that will be using biomethanol in its biodiesel production.

Södra decided to invest in a biomethanol production facility in 2017. This initiative shows that Södra is working towards a circular economy, resource-efficiency and being fossil-fuel free.

“It is with pride that we have now started up the first commercial plant in the world for biomethanol. The transition to a bioeconomy means that all raw materials must be used efficiently. Biomethanol is produced from the crude methanol recovered from the manufacturing process at Södra’s pulp mills. It is part of the circular process that already exists in Södra’s mills, in which all parts of forest products are used for the best possible effect. With this step, we are showing the way to a fossil-free society, and it is fully in line with our own strategy for fossil-free transportation by 2030,” said Henrik Brodin, Strategic Business Development Manager at Södra.

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The investment is also broadening Södra’s product portfolio with a new bioproduct.

“More and more people are realising why we need to switch to fossil-free alternatives. That’s why it feels so great that we can bring biomethanol to the market as a substitute for fossil methanol in the transport sector as well as a chemical base. Demand for bio-based products is favourable and we have long experience in delivering other bioproducts to the fuel and chemical industries. As we now continue to build on that, it feels particularly gratifying to have made a first pilot delivery to our customer Emmelev A/S.  We are now looking forward to continuing the development of the product together with our customers,” said Viktor Odenbrink, Sales Manager at Södra Cell Bioproducts.

Emmelev A/S is a Danish family-owned agricultural company that has developed large-scale biodiesel production from local canola, but uses fossil methanol as a raw material in production.

“Biodiesel will play a key role in the transition to a fossil-free Denmark and we are very happy that Swedish biomethanol will now be used in production. Our biodiesel will be 100% renewable and based on locally sourced raw materials. Biodiesel produced from Danish canola and Swedish forests can secure fuel supplies for heavy road transport, as well as buses and construction machinery. This will be crucial for a transformation of the energy sector. We emphasise local and regional production and consider Sweden part of our local area, and we have good relationships with Swedish companies. It therefore feels natural to be entering into an agreement with Södra,” said Morten Simonsen, co-owner of Emmelev A/S.

Founded in 1938, Södra is Sweden’s largest forest-owner association, with 52,000 forest owners as its members. We conduct modern and responsible forestry, and operate state-of-the-art mills in which we process our raw material. In 2019, net sales amounted to SEK 23 billion and employees totalled 3,100. Through value-generating relationships and a long-term approach, Södra shows the way for the next generation of forestry.


Auction uptake boosts Italy’s latest renewable energy drive, says GlobalData

Italy has approved a new auction scheme to propel the growth of renewable energy installations in the country, for the first time since the end of the Conto Energia era, which ended in 2013. According to leading data and analytics company GlobalData, at the end of 2013, the country had solar PV installations of 18.1 gigawatts (GW) of capacity.

Mohit Prasad, Power Project Manager at GlobalData, comments: “These seven rounds of auctions are the country’s first set of auctions for large-scale renewable energy projects since the feed-in-tariff (FiT) program Conto Energia was closed in 2013. The Conto Energia program, which granted incentive tariffs for energy produced by photovoltaic (PV) systems over a period of 20 years, first came into effect in 2005. From 2005 until 2013, the solar PV sector in Italy recorded growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 119%.

“Post the removal of Conto Energia, where the country witnessed massive solar PV installations, the growth of renewable energy sector has remained subdued. However, Italy’s National Integrated Plan for Climate and Energy 2030, is targeting a 55.4% renewable share in the electricity sector. The country has set a solar PV target of 50GW by end of 2030, while the target for wind has been set for 18.4GW.” 

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The auction scheme, through which around 4.8GW of renewable energy capacity will be contracted, will have seven bidding rounds until 2021. Under the scheme, which is part of Renewables Decree (RES1 Decree), different categories have been divided depending on the type of technology. Category-A is for wind and solar PV plants, Category-B is for hydroelectric and gas based plants whereas Category-C is for wind, hydroelectric and gas plants subject to partial or total revamping. For Category-A, the first two procurement rounds will each realize around 500MW of allocated capacity while the next three rounds will have an allocated capacity of 700MW each and the final two will have contracted capacity of 800MW each respectively.

Prasad concludes: “The first round of auction for Category-A was conducted in January 2020. The reference price was set at €70/MWh with the developers getting the option to bid with reductions between 2% and 70% on the reference price. Some 18 projects with prices between €48.65/MWh and €66.50/MWh were successful in the auction.

“The success of first round - which was oversubscribed - means the investments are coming into the sector. Italy’s plan to hold three rounds of tenders in 2020 and a further three in 2021 will definitely bring in more investments and thereby propel the growth of renewable energy in the country post the Conto Energia.”

Quotes provided by Mohit Prasad, Power Project Manager at GlobalData

About GlobalData

4,000 of the world’s largest companies, including over 70% of FTSE 100 and 60% of Fortune 100 companies, make more timely and better business decisions thanks to GlobalData’s unique data, expert analysis and innovative solutions, all in one platform. GlobalData’s mission is to help our clients decode the future to be more successful and innovative across a range of industries, including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors.


Global manufacturer introduces baling to business

A global manufacturer of exhaust gas control systems has installed a mill-sized waste baler on its UK site, as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to boost recycling levels.

The RWM400 machine – supplied by North East-based ATK Equipment – is now being used to bale the large volumes of plastic and polythene waste materials handled by the GT Emissions Systems factory.

Located in Peterlee, County Durham, the business manufactures a range of products, which effectively contribute to the emission strategies of diesel engine producers.

With over three million of its proven solutions – including exhaust brakes and waste heat recovery valves – operational in the field, the 10,000 sq.ft base deals with high levels of demand, shipping to countries worldwide, including America, Russia, Mexico and Sweden, amongst many others.

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John Young, group health, safety, environmental and facilities manager at GT Emissions Systems, commented on the company’s need for a baling solution: “We’ve never had a baler before, but were well aware that smarter handling of our materials was required, particularly in line with the enhanced UK awareness of our global recycling problems.

“Bill Walton, managing director at ATK, recommended the RWM400 mill-sized equipment, and we’ve witnessed great improvements since the machine was installed.”

The baler compresses approximately 3-4 tonnes of plastic and polythene materials per quarter, and the 500kg bales produced are then collected for off-site recycling – maximising transport efficiencies and load capacities as a result of their size.

John continues: “The new method of compacting and storing waste material not only ensures the factory is a tidier space to work in, it’s also safer for staff. Add to that the revenue generated from waste collections, and it’s safe to say that we wish we had taken this route earlier!”

Based in Seaham, ATK Equipment is a leading provider of waste processing machinery, including balers, compactors and crushers.


10 years of successful offshore wind expansion in Germany - Getting increased expansion volumes off the ground quickly

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In Berlin, the German offshore wind industry presented the expansion figures for offshore wind energy in 2019. According to these figures, 160 turbines with a capacity of 1,111 MW were connected to the grid for the first time last year. This means that a total of 1,469 offshore wind turbines with a capacity of 7,516 MW will feed electricity into the grid. "At the beginning of offshore development in Germany in 2010, only 12 turbines with a capacity of 60 MW supplied clean electricity from the 'alpha ventus' test field. Ten years later, there are around 1,500 turbines with a capacity of over 7.5 GW. Electricity from offshore wind energy is cost-efficient, consistently reliable and competitive. Offshore wind energy has developed from Germany into an international success story," the industry representatives commented on the figures. "This makes the increase in the expansion targets for offshore wind energy decided by the Federal Government all the more important. The industry has long been calling for an expansion to at least 20 GW by 2030 and an expansion path that goes beyond that. To achieve this, the federal government must quickly create the legal basis and, in the first step, allocate free capacities of up to 2 GW to cushion the consequences of the expansion gap for the domestic industry. Only in this way can the domestic supply chain be maintained and earlier successes, such as the 2 GW expansion in 2015, be achieved again.

The industry representatives of BWE, BWO, Stiftung OFFSHORE-WINDENERGIE, VDMA Power Systems and WAB further explained: "Any further loss of time leads to additional job losses and endangers the international competitiveness of German companies. The know-how acquired in the offshore wind industry over the last decade is an important competitive edge in international competition that must be maintained. We still need a strong domestic market in order to remain successful in the constantly growing world market."

  • 160 turbines at sea with a capacity of 1,111 MW with first-time electricity feed-in in 2019, 1,469 turbines with a total capacity of 7,516 MW connected to the grid - offshore wind energy is becoming increasingly cost-effective and delivers the usual reliable high electricity volumes
  • Increase the expansion target for offshore wind energy to at least 20 GW by 2030 - Implement quickly - Long-term expansion planning to 2035 (30 - 35 GW) and 2050
  • Free capacities of up to 2 GW need to be allocated as quickly as possible to cushion the consequences of the expansion gap
  • EU level: 450 GW offshore wind capacity planned by 2050 - technology from Germany as an export hit
  • Strong domestic market is crucial for maintaining and expanding value creation and jobs in Germany and for remaining innovative

Creating long-term planning security for the expansion of renewable energies beyond 2030

Due to the long project cycles of offshore wind farms, long-term planning security is of great importance, so that the expansion of offshore wind energy up to 2035 and 2050 must be planned now, the industry representatives explained. Otherwise, there is a risk of bottlenecks and time distortions. However, the expansion paths for all renewable energy technologies would have to be reviewed in view of rising electricity requirements and the framework conditions adjusted accordingly. After the clarity of the phase-out of coal-fired power, we need an ambitious expansion of renewables to replace the missing electricity. According to industry representatives, offshore wind capacity of 30-35 GW will be required by 2035, and this will have to rise to over 50 GW by 2050.

Use EU Council Presidency and Presidency of the North Sea Cooperation for intensified and coordinated offshore wind development in Germany and Europe

Without high expansion volumes, the national and international climate targets could not be achieved. "With appropriate signals, Germany can present itself as a credible pioneer in climate protection, also against the background of its EU Council Presidency this year. Initiatives for a stronger networking of the North Sea countries in a joint offshore grid planning would also contribute to this", said the industry representatives. "The importance of large-scale coordinated offshore wind development in Europe has also been highlighted by the European Commission with its policy approach of the European Green Deal. For example, the EU considers it necessary to expand offshore wind energy to 450 GW by 2050 in order to achieve climate neutrality within the EU by 2050.

Germany should also promote these issues during its current chairmanship of the North Seas Energy Cooperation. The cooperation aims to promote the coordinated expansion of offshore wind in Europe in order to achieve cost advantages and energy efficiency gains.

Further promote grid expansion and grid utilisation as well as sector coupling and adapt the support system accordingly

In the area of network planning, onshore network expansion measures should be accelerated and all possibilities for better utilisation of existing networks should be exploited. In addition, regulatory hurdles in the area of the use of green electricity for sector coupling had to be removed. For this purpose, changes in the levy and allocation system in particular are necessary, the industry representatives said.

There must also be a further development of the support system in the near future. For example, according to the current legal situation, the zero-cent bids of the last tender round are the maximum price of all future tenders. This means that there is no possibility of differentiating future bids. In addition, the economic viability of some parks is no longer assured due to various factors, such as the increasing distance to the mainland. The necessary reform of the subsidy system would relieve electricity consumers in the high three-digit million range.

Using offshore wind energy for national hydrogen strategy

The industry also believes that an effective CO2 price is necessary with the aim of making the actual cost advantages of climate-neutral generation capacities visible. The initiated CO2 pricing in the transport and heating sectors is therefore a first important step towards creating a market for "green" hydrogen generated by renewable electricity. Offshore wind energy can significantly support the German government's national hydrogen strategy.