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Mirko Molinari has always been a renewable energy guy—even when he wasn’t. His thesis at Politecnico di Milano in Italy was on emissions trading and its impact on the European economy. His first job was assessing renewable energy projects. Then, a friend at GE Oil & Gas called in 2005 looking to fill a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) position. Mirko took the job, and began his GE career learning the fossil fuel side of the energy industry.
“It was funny,” Mirko recalls, “because I was a renewable energy guy, then made this deep dive into oil and gas.” The dive aligned with Mirko’s love of global travel and his first decade with GE was spent developing M&A deals and joint ventures all over the world—including three years in Brazil—before landing in Paris to work on the Alstom merger. That put Mirko close to the grid business and, eventually, assessing the synergies of renewable sources and GE power distribution.
Within the Ecomagination space, Mirko is a thought leader on energy storage. The Distributed Grid Systems business Mirko now leads “is like a startup within GE Power. We lead energy storage and microgrids for GE—one of the most exciting segments in our total space right now.”
Mirko says that one challenge is managing the intermittent generation of solar and wind, which is unpredictable going into the grid. “Production and consumption need to be equal at all times. So if you have wind that blows and then doesn’t, you create shocks. Energy storage is one of the very few technologies that helps with that. With the declining cost of batteries, it’s becoming achievable and economically viable.”
The flexible advantage of energy storage on the grid was recently demonstrated by GE’s new (and Ecomagination qualified) Hybrid Electric Gas Turbine (Hybrid EGT) implemented for Southern California Edison. Whenever renewable energy supplies drop below demand, a “peaker” supply comes online to make up the difference. In this application, the peaker is a GE LM6000 gas turbine. But even that takes a few minutes to spin up and come online. An ingenious control system developed by Mirko’s team bridges that critical gap by seamlessly blending output between battery storage and the gas turbine. The hybrid solution immediately provides power when demand surges, without wasting energy to keep the turbine running in standby mode.
“We are at the nascent point of this very interesting battery storage technology,” Mirko says. “And we are in the middle of a big transformation in the utility sector. The future will be more renewable, more complex, more distributed. We need to embrace these disruptive technologies across industries, and across our own businesses. My team has daily contact with GE Renewable and GE Power. Anytime anyone in GE has to deal with energy storage, microgrids, or energy management in a distributed application, give me a call.”

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