Archive for June, 2012

Isentropic’s Pumped Heat Electricity Storage Runs Hot and Cold

June 28th, 2012

Isentropic is a UK company that has developed an energy storage system called Pumped Heat Electricity Storage (PHES).

Isentropic owns several international and U.S. patents and applications.  U.S. Application Publication No. 2010/0257862 (‘862 Application) describes and claims the PHES technology.

Entitled “Energy storage,” the ‘862 Application is directed to an energy storage system (10) comprising compressor/expander means (20) including a compressor (21), an expander (22), and power input/output means (40).

The energy storage system (10) also includes a first heat storage means (50), a second heat storage means (60), high pressure transfer means (70, 71) and low pressure transfer means (80, 81).

To charge the system (10), a low pressure gas enters the compressor (21) through inlet (23) and passes into a compression chamber (24).  The low pressure gas is compressed by a compression piston (25) and transferred via the high pressure transfer means (70) to the first heat storage means (50) where it transfers thermal energy to the first thermal store (53).

The gas then passes through the high pressure transfer means (71) and enters the expander (22) through inlet (27).  The gas is then expanded in the expansion chamber (28) and is transferred by the low pressure transfer means (81) to the second heat storage means (60) where it receives thermal energy from the second thermal store (63).

Finally, the gas passes through the low pressure transfer means (80) and can start the process again by entering the compressor (21).

According to Isentropic’s PHES technology web page, each heat storage means contains mineral particulates as a storage medium to interact with the pumped gas.

The company says the PHES system provides very high (72-80%) round trip efficiency comparable with pumped hydro, high reversibility, i.e., the system can function as both an engine and a heat pump, and no geographical restraints.

Isentropic should be able to showcase all of these advantages soon.  This GTM piece reports that a UK public-private partnership called the Energy Technologies Institute is investing $22 million to build a full-scale PHES demo system.

Cofactor Key Factor as Gevo Dodges Injunction

June 26th, 2012

Biobutanol maker Gevo dodged a bullet with a big win last week in its expanding patent war with Butamax Advanced Biofuels (Butamax) (see previous posts herehere, here, here, here, and the post on Butamax’s opening shot).

While Butamax did have exactly one week of satisfaction after the District Court for the District of Delaware issued a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting any new sales of Gevo’s bio-based isobutanol, the bigger victory went to Gevo when the court denied Butamax’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Butamax had requested the court enjoin Gevo from infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889, entitled “Fermentive production of four carbon alcohols” (‘889 Patent).  The ‘889 Patent is directed to a more cost efficient method of producing isobutanol directly from pyruvate via a particular production pathway using recombinant microbial host cells.

To determine whether Butamax was likely to succeed on the merits (and thus deserving of preliminary injunctive relief) the court zeroed in on the heart of the infringement question, which turns on the interpretation of a key claim term.

More particularly, the parties disputed the meaning of the term “acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase enzyme,” also known as a “KARI.”  KARI is the enzyme used in one of the steps of claim 1 of the ‘889 Patent.

A KARI needs a cofactor that donates electrons to enable it to catalyze a reaction, and the issue was whether a KARI is defined with respect to NADPH or NADH cofactors.

Critical to resolution of this issue, the ‘889 Patent expressly defines acetohydroxy acid isomereductase as:

an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of acetolactate to 2,3-dihydroxyisovalerate using NADPH (reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) as an electron donor

The court noted that the ‘889 Patent specifically states that other enzymes use “NADH and/or NADPH as an electron donor.” 

Guided by the statements in Butamax’s ‘889 Patent, the court construed acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase as being defined with respect to NADPH only:

Accordingly, the court interprets the term acetohydroxy acid isomeroreductase in the manner in which plaintiff defined it, namely, as an enzyme that is solely NADPH-dependent (as opposed to NADH-dependent or NADH and NADPH-dependent).

Because Gevo uses an NADH-dependent enzyme, the court found it unlikely that Butamax would prevail on infringement of the ‘889 Patent:

[B]y defining the KARI as exclusively NADPH-dependent, plaintiff has placed defendant’s use of an NADH-dependent, or primarily NADH-dependent enzyme, outside the scope of claim 1.

As to validity of the ‘889 Patent, the court observed that claims 1 and 14 have been rejected as anticipated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upon reexamination.

The patent examiner based his rejection on the inherent capability of enzymes in yeast cells to carry out the anabolic pathway claimed in the ‘889 Patent:

[Y]east converting pyruvate to isobutanol inherently possesses the enzymes capable of carrying out isobutanol synthetic pathway reactions found in claim 1.

Due to the questionable validity of the ‘889 Patent and Gevo’s strong non-infringement position, the court denied Butamax’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

A couple of days after the preliminary injunction decision, the court issued an opinion on Butamax’s motion on the pleadings in which it denied Butamax’s motion for a judgment that it does not infringe Gevo’s U.S. Patent Nos. 8,017,375 and 8,017,376.

The court found the infringement claims “particularly ill suited for disposition on a motion of judgment” because of the complexity of the technology but did indicate it might be willing to entertain focused discovery to expedite resolution of the claim.

So Butamax has stumbled out of the gate, but will no doubt continue the race.

Green Off-Patent Report (Powered by Cleantech PatentEdge)

June 23rd, 2012


Our Green Off-Patent Report provides selected highlights of green patents which have completed their 20-year terms and recently expired or will complete their terms and expire within the next week or so (assuming the patentee paid all requisite maintenance fees; U.S. patents require payment of fees 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years after issuance to stay in force).

Many of the green technologies in use today are off-patent, i.e., the patents covering the technologies have run their 20-year term and expired. 

Knowing which technologies are off-patent is important because those technologies are in the public domain and can be exploited by anyone.  It’s also interesting because it provides a window into what was cutting edge technology twenty years ago.

The green off-patent searching is performed by Cleantech PatentEdge™.

U.S. Patent No. 5,344,722, entitled “Phosphoric acid fuel cell” and directed to phosphoric acid electrolytes which improve fuel cell performance due to enhanced oxygen reduction kinetics.  Filed June 25, 1992; issued September 6, 1994; will expire June 25, 1992.

U.S. Patent No. 5,208,115, entitled “Solid-electrolyte fuel cell system” and directed to a solid-electrolyte fuel cell system comprising a plurality of solid-electrolyte fuel cells, a plurality of oxygen gas passage devices, and a plurality of fuel gas passage devices.  Filed June 17, 1992; issued May 4, 1993; expired June 17, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,215,156, entitled “Electric vehicle with downhill electro-generating system” and directed to a vehicle having an electro-generating system in which a dynamoelectric generator is linked to a rotating axle of the road wheels and can be used to generate electricity and recharge a storage battery.  Filed June 25, 1992; issued June 1, 1993; will expire June 25, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,226,926, entitled “Plastic and oil waste processing method” and directed to a method of processing plastic and and spent vegetable oil and shaping the resultant mixture into a solid fuel product.  Filed June 15, 1992; issued July 13, 1993; expired June 15, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,232,467, entitled “Process for producing dry, CH4-enriched sulfur-free enriched synthesis or fuel gas” and directed to a process for producing syngas using cryogenic liquefied natural gas as a source of refrigeration and methane.  Filed June 18, 1992; issued August 3, 1993; expired June 18, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,232,487, entitled “Method of simultaneous disposal of solid and liquid wastes” and directed to methods of disposing of solid and liquid wastes by introducing the wastes into a gasification reactor having a cooled reactor inner wall and liquid slag discharge and gasifying the solid and liquid wastes at certain high temperatures.  Filed June 19, 1992; issued August 3, 1993; expired June 19, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,215,557, entitled “Dry scrubber with integral particulate collection device” and directed to a scrubber and particular collection device for sulfur dioxide and other contaminants and particulates from combustion flue gas.  Filed June 24, 1992; issued June 1, 1993; will expire June 24, 2012.

U.S. Patent No. 5,225,175, entitled “Self-scrubbing removal of submicron particles from gaseous effluents” and directed to methods and systems for separating very fine particulates from gaseous effluents resulting from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels using SO2 to enlarge the particles.  Filed June 22, 1992; issued July 6, 1993; expired June 22, 2012.

Enviance Eco-mark Complaint Highlights Importance of GHG Emissions IP

June 20th, 2012


Enviance is a Carlsbad, California, corporation that produces and sells Environmental Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and provides other environmental services.  The ERP software enables Enviance’s clients to measure, manage, and report things such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental health and safety (EHS) data in order to mitigate their environmental performance. 

Enviance owns at least three U.S. trademark and service mark registrations for the ENVIANCE mark (Enviance Marks):

Registration No. 2,615,961 for “computer software for providing information and forms creation in the area of environmental regulation and compliance, brownfield redevelopment, health and safety” in Class 9;

Registration No. 2,762,766 for “consultation in the fields of environmental regulation, health, safety and compliance, substance testing, waste disposal and brown field redevelopment; providing information in the fields of environmental regulation, health, safety and compliance, substance testing, waste disposal and brown field redevelopment via global computer network” in Class 42; and 

Registration No. 2,976,477 for “dissemination of advertising for others via global computer network” in Class 35 and “financial management services; insurance underwriting services in the fields of marine, fire, accident, home, life, and environmental risk; electronic funds transfer services” in Class 36.

Earlier this month, Enviance sued Enviance Services (“ES”), of Houston, Texas, for trademark infringement relating to the use of the Enviance Marks.  ES was created by two companies: Energy Services Acquisitions II (“ESA2”), a company that provides services relating to the Pipeline Safety Act and the Clean Air Act, and Reces, an environmental consultancy.  

Enviance’s complaint alleges that ES has been using the term “Enviance” in its promotions, and that the term is substantially similar to Enviance’s registered marks.

According to the complaint, Enviance has been using the Enviance Marks in connection with its products and services since June of 2001.  Thus, the company says it has built up a strong reputation and goodwill with consumers, and the Enviance Marks have become a distinctive symbol in the industry. 

Enviance alleges that ESA2 and Reces’s use of the mark, in relation to ES, is designed to mislead consumers into believing the origin of goods and services is the already established corporation Enviance. 

Therefore, Enviance seeks to prevent further use of its trademarks to prevent other companies from unjustly enriching themselves based on the hard work that Enviance has already done to build its reputation.

As GHG emissions accounting and reduction becomes financially and legally important in places like Australia and California, we can expect to see increased IP litigation involving this type of software product.

*Jared LeBeau is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Jared is a Summer Associate with the downtown San Diego office of McKenna Long and Aldridge LLP.  He will be entering his third and final year at the University of San Diego School of Law in the fall of 2012.  He received a dual undergraduate degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Marist College in 2009.

Companies and Conferences Tout New WindMade Certification

June 18th, 2012

WindMade is a new certification label for companies that obtain at least 25% of their electricity from wind power.

Recently, Danish hearing aid manufacturer Widex became the first company in the world to receive the WindMade label.  A wind turbine supporting 95% of Widex’s energy use, including production, put the company well above the percentage threshold required to earn the WindMade certification.

The certification allows companies to convey to consumers their commitment to renewable energy sources, thus giving customers the opportunity to support companies and products that use wind power to satisfy a significant portion of their energy needs.

According to the WindMade web site, Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S was a founding partner of the WindMade program and is still a lead sponsor. 

Vestas filed a U.S. service mark application for the WINDMADE design mark (shown above) in December 2011.  WindMade asbl, a Belgian company, is the current owner of U.S. Application Serial No. 79/105,250, which claims priority to European Community Trade Mark No. 009629445.

The WindMade label, which is supported by the UN Global Compact, is not limited to companies; it also certifies events that procure 100% of their electricity footprint from renewable power sources. 

The first event to be WindMade certified was the European Wind Energy Association’s 2012 Conference & Exhibition in Copenhagen (see the press release here), and the first North American event to receive the WindMade label was the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition (see the press release here).

Although the WindMade label is currently used solely at the corporate level, companies will be able to attach the certification to products in the near future and could enjoy increased profits as a result.  Morten Albaek, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Customer Insight at Vestas Wind Systems A/S, reports that “67 percent of 31,000 consumers globally have told us they would favor WindMade products, even at a premium.” 

Product level WindMade designation is expected to be announced in the first half of 2013.

*Natalie Kleffman is a contributor to Green Patent Blog. Natalie will be entering her third year at University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) in August and is currently a summer associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego, California.

Chinese Supremes to American Superconductor: We’ll Hear You

June 15th, 2012


In previous posts (here, here and here), I discussed the IP litigation in China between American Superconductor (AMSC) and Chinese wind energy system maker Sinovel.

Recharge reports that China’s Supreme People’s Court recently agreed to hear AMSC’s appeal in one of the civil actions of the dispute. 

This is an appeal by AMSC of the Hainan Supreme Court’s decision to affirm a lower court ruling that dismissed AMSC’s copyright infringement action against Sinovel, Dalian Guotong, a power converter maker partially owned by Sinovel, and Huaneng Hainan Power Company. 

The Hainan Province No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court threw out AMSC’s suit on jurisdictional grounds after Sinovel filed a motion to dismiss in December 2011.  In that motion, Sinovel argued that the case should be governed by the Beijing Arbitration Commission, which is hearing separate contractual disputes between AMSC and Sinovel.

According to the Recharge piece, AMSC appealed this copyright infringement case to the Supreme People’s Court because it is “purely a copyright infringement dispute rather than a contractual matter.  As such, it is independent of the contracts and belongs within the civil court system.”

The of heart of the dispute is AMSC’s allegations that Sinovel misappropriated its propietary software code for controlling wind turbines and power converters.  

Specifcally, AMSC accuses Sinovel of copyright infringement and theft of trade secrets by Sinovel’s unauthorized use of the turbine control software source code and the binary code, or upper layer, of its software for the PM3000 power converters used with Sinovel’s 1.5 MW turbines.  The control software was developed by AMSC for use with Sinovel’s turbines.

The litigation has involved four separate actions by AMSC in various forums in China where the effectiveness of intellectual property enforcement remains an open question of increasing importance to the clean tech industry.

Zep and Westinghouse Break Mounting Tension with Comprehensive Settlement

June 13th, 2012


Previous posts (here, here and here) discussed the patent litigation between Zep Solar and Westinghouse Solar over solar panel mounting technology.  The contentious dispute involved at least three patents, three forums, two reexaminations, and back and forth cross claims of infringement and invalidity.

Recently, Zep and Westinghouse announced that they have reached a comprehensive settlement to end their patent battles. 

In a joint statement, the companies said the agreement would result in dismissal of all actions, which included proceedings in federal courts, the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The statement also indicated that the settlement extends to all customers, suppliers and licensees of both Zep and Westinghouse that were named parties in any of the legal actions.

The asserted Westinghouse patents were U.S. Patents Nos. 7,406,800 (‘800 Patent) and 7,987,641 (‘641 Patent).  Both cover what Westinghouse refers to as the “Andalay System,” a solar power system which includes solar panels with integrated racking, wiring and grounding (DC solar panels), and integrated microinverters (AC solar panels) for residential and commercial customers.

Zep had asserted U.S. Patent No. 7,592,537, entitled “Method and apparatus for mounting photovoltaic modules” and directed to an interlocking PV module array.

OrganoWorld’s Winga E-Generator Harnesses Energy from Low Wind Speeds

June 11th, 2012

OrganoWorld, a company based in Montreal, Canada, has developed a wind turbine able to harness energy at low wind speeds.

Concerned about the effects of global climate change, chemical engineer Frederick Churchill began to explore the use of wind energy.  He carried out preliminary research for his technology with the assistance of personnel and research facilities at both the University of Montreal, and the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi.

The Winga e-Jetstream Generator design converges low wind onto an annular rotor, and diverges it to create a large augmentation of the wind velocity.  While a three-wing rotor would only be able to create 51.1 W/m2 from a mean wind velocity of 4.4 m/s, the Winga e-Jetstream Generator would be able to create as much 26,168.5 W/m2

The following diagram depicts the technology:

According to Cleantech PatentEdge™, OrganoWorld owns six international, or PCT, applications, including applications directed to various features of its wind turbine:  Interational Application No. PCT/CA2009/000797 for the apparatus to increase fluid velocity in a fluid turbine, International Application No. PCT/CA2009/001641 for the fluid directing system for turbines, and International Appication No. PCT/CA2009/001649 for the annular multi rotor double wall turbine, among others. 

Additional patent applications are also underway. 

One technical problem, relating to early boundary layer separation in the diffuser, has been overcome, making this a fully scalable technology.

The company is seeking funding to build a 250 kW commercial prototype with the hopes of making wind power more accessible for commercial building owners, universities, and off-grid locations.  According to Churchill, the company is currently exploring opportunities in the Caribbean and in Germany.

* Rosemary Ostfeld is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Rosemary recently completed both her undergraduate and graduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.  She double majored in Biology, and Earth & Environmental Sciences as an undergraduate, and received her Master’s in Earth & Environmental Sciences.

Clean Tech in Court: Green Patent Complaint Update

June 9th, 2012

There have been several green patent complaints filed in the past several weeks in the fields of biofuels, LEDs, solar power, and industrial water purification.



Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC v. Gevo, Inc.

On May 15, 2012, Butamax filed suit against Gevo in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware alleging Gevo is infringing one of its patents related to the production of isobutanol using recombinant microorganisms. 

This suit is the latest in the expanding litigation between Gevo and Butamax (see, e.g., previous posts here, here, here, here, and the post on Butamax’s opening shot).

The asserted patent is U.S. Patent No. 8,178,328, entitled “Fermentive Production of Four Carbon Alcohols” (‘328 Patent).  The ‘328 Patent is the latest in a family of patents – including U.S. Patent Nos. 7,993,889 and 7,851,188  – that Butamax has been asserting against Gevo.

According to the Butamax complaint, the ‘328 Patent discloses and claims certain recombinant microbial host cells comprising an engineered isobutanol biosynthetic pathway.

Butamax alleges that Gevo uses recombinant microbial host cells capable of producing isobutanol that embody the invention in the ‘328 Patent, and that Gevo’s U.S. Patent No. 8,097,440 includes examples of such infringing host cells.

Gevo is seeking a judgment that Gevo infringes the ‘328 Patent, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and monetary damages.


Neste Oil Oyj v. Dynamic Fuels, LLC et al.

Neste Oil Oyj filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware on May 29, 2012 against Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, alleging Defendants’ synthetic renewable diesel fuels infringe U.S. Patent No. 8,187,344 (‘344 Patent).

The ‘344 Patent is entitled “Fuel Composition for a Diesel Engine” and directed to diesel fuels made from animal, plant, or fish fatty acids.

Dynamic Fuels is a joint venture of Syntroleum and Tyson Foods that operates refineries capable of producing allegedly infringing synthetic renewable diesel fuels using the necessary biological feedstock.

According to the Neste complaint, the Dynamic Fuels plant has produced substantial volumes of the accused product over the past couple of years.

Neste  is seeking a judgement of infringement of the ‘344 Patent, a permanent injunction, and monetary damages.



Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation et al. v. Power Integrations, Inc.

Filed May 1, 2012 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation and System General Corporation’s (collectively “Fairchild”) complaint alleges that Power Integrations infringes four patents owned by Fairchild:

U.S. Patent No. 7,525,259, entitled “Primary Side Regulated Power Supply System With Constant Current Output” (‘259 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,286,123, entitled “LED Driver Circuit Having Temperature Consideration” (‘123 Patent);

U.S. Patent No. 7,616,461, entitled “Control Method and Circuit with Indirect Input Voltage Detection by Switching Current Slope Detection” (‘461 Patent); and

U.S. Patent No. 7,259,972, entitled “Primary-Side-Control Power Converter Having a Switching Controller Using Frequency Hopping and Voltage and Current Control Loops” (‘972 Patent).

Fairchild alleges that Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-PH controllers infringe the ‘259, ‘123, and ‘461 Patents.

According to Fairchild’s complaint, Power Integrations’ LinkSwitch-II and Linkswitch-CV devices were previously found to infringe claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.  

However, Fairchild alleges that the same day, Power Integrations issued a press release encouraging customers to continue using the infringing products by stating that its customers are unaffected by the verdict. As such, Fairchild claims that Power Integrations is now inducing infringement of claims 6, 7, 18, and 19 of the ‘972 Patent.

Fairchild is seeking a judgment of infringement, an injunction, and monetary damages.


Ruud Lighting, Inc. v. Cooper Lighting, LLC

On May 23, 2012, Ruud Lighting filed suit against Cooper Lighting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,952,262 (‘262 Patent).

Entitled “Modular LED Unit Incorporating Interconnected Heat Sinks Configured to Mount and Hold Adjacent LED Modules,” the ‘262 Patent is directed to a modular LED unit including one or more LED modules, each bearing an array of LEDs and secured to a heat sink.

Ruud manufactures and sells numerous LED products embodying the invention of the ‘262 Patent for area and street lighting applications and certain floodlight lighting products.

According to the Ruud complaint, Cooper sells a product known as its “Generation Series LED Post Top Luminaire,” which infringes the ‘262 Patent.



Rena GMBH v. M.E. Baker Company

Rena GMBH filed suit against M.E. Baker Company on May 3, 2012 in  the United States District Court for the Central District of California.  Rena is alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 7,943,526, entitled “Process for the Wet-Chemical Treatment of One Side Silicon Wafers” (‘526 Patent).

The ‘526 Patent is directecd to a process for wet-chemical treatment of one side of a silicon wafer using a liquid bath.  The patented invention improves upon prior processes for protecting or masking the surfaces that are not to be chemically treated.

According to the Rena Complaint, M.E. Baker Company’s treatment process infringes the ‘526 Patent. 

Rena GMBH is seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages


Water Purification

Calgon Carbon Corporation et al. v. Remote Light Water, Inc.

Calgon Carbon Corporation and Hyde Marine, Inc. (collectively “Calgon”) filed suit against Remote Light Water (RLW), seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of RLW’s U.S. Patents Nos. 6,447,721 (‘721 Patent) and 6,403,030 (‘030 Patent).

Filed May 8, 2012 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Calgon’s Complaint alleges that counsel for RLW sent a letter offering Calgon a license under the ‘721 and ‘030 Patents for Calgon’s Sentinal UV drinking water disinfectant product.

The ‘721 Patent describes a UV disinfection system comprising at least one light source with controllable UV light output that has at least one UV dose zone for providing effective sterilization of microorganisms within the water.  The ‘030 Patent describes a similar process effective for treating waste-containing fluid.

According to the Complaint, Calgon has reasonable apprehension that RLW will sue for infringement because RLW is “in the business of enforcing its patent portfolio through litigation.” 

*Jeff Woodley is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.  Jeff is a summer associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge and is currently in his final year at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.  He received his undergraduate degree in Economics also from the University of California, Los Angeles.

GE’s Patented PulsePoint System Picks Up Good (and Bad) Vibrations

June 6th, 2012

As the leading U.S. wind turbine supplier (its turbines generate forty percent of installed U.S. wind energy capacity), it makes sense that GE would invest in technology to keep all those turbines operating efficiently and reliably.

GE recently issued a press release about its new wind farm monitoring and diagnostic system.  Called PulsePOINT, the system incorporates anomaly detection algorithms with wind farm and fleet data to identify problems in turbine operations and recommend appropriate corrective actions.

GE recently obtained a patent on its PulsePOINT system.  The technology behind PulsePOINT is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8,219,356, entitled “System and method for detecting anomalies in wind turbines.” (‘356 Patent).

The ‘356 Patent is directed to methods and devices which detect anomalies in wind turbines by monitoring and comparing data from a first wind turbine and data from a group of turbines similar to the first turbine and generating a sensor error if the monitored data of the first wind turbine deviates more than a predetermined amount from the monitored data of the group of wind turbines.

A second recent patent relates to GE’s condition monitoring system (CMS) technology, which monitors drivetrain vibration and is one input to the PulsePOINT monitoring package.

U.S. Patent No. 8,162,788, entitled “System, device and method for wind turbine control based on operating profiles” (‘788 Patent), issued April 25, 2012.

The ‘788 Patent is directed to a device for use in controlling a wind turbine.  One or more sensors (120) are coupled to a wind turbine.  A sensor monitor (130) receives signals from the sensors (120) via sensor interface (132) and processes the signals by processor (134) to create a plurality of parameter values.

Per independent claim 1, the only independent claim of the ‘788 Patent, the parameter values include two different sets of values with the first set of parameter values being indicative of wind turbine vibration.  

A client device (204) receives the data, and a processor (224) coupled to a wind turbine communication interface (228) associates each of the received parameter values with one of a plurality of operating modes of the wind turbine to create a turbine operating profile for each mode.

Philip Totaro of Totaro & Associates, which tracks wind industry and technology developments, said PulsePOINT is an important tool for improving turbine reliability and performance:

This technology represents an important step for wind turbine manufacturers and service providers in understanding what’s happening to their fleet.  It will help flush out reliability and performance problems and greatly assist in driving down operations & maintenance (O&M) costs.  This could also provide GE some key turbine fleet performance data for their move to production based turbine availability and production based O&M.

According to this Greentech Media piece, GE’s Remote Operations Centers monitors 6,000 wind turbines around the world 24/7.  That’s a lot of vibrations.