Brazil’s Northeast, a region that abounds with culture and large wind plants, among others, is also the home of Porto de Sergipe I, Latin America’s largest combined-cycle gas-fired power plant in operation.
The project also gives Brazil extra flexibility to manage its renewable-rich grid. The country has generated around 63% of its electricity from hydroelectric power generation sources in recent years, according to grid operator ONS. But when the giant reservoirs in Brazil’s southeast and central-western regions run low, as happened a few years ago in the 2011–2015 period, Porto de Sergipe I can help cover the shortfall.
In fact, that is exactly what has happened this year: The plant has been generating nonstop since early July to compensate for the lack of hydro as Brazil grapples with drought and lower-than-expected rainfall, racking up site records for uninterrupted 24/7 operation executed with efficiency, safety and reliability.
In August, Brazil’s mines and energy minister, Bento Albuquerque, said the reservoirs of the country’s hydroelectric power plants in the Southeast and Central-West regions suffered a greater reduction than expected, and as a result of the drought, Brazil had lost hydropower output equal to the energy consumed by the city of Rio de Janeiro within a five-month period.
The country had to import electricity from its neighbors and boost power generation at plants across the country to meet energy demand. The following month, the energy minister tweeted, “The Porto de Sergipe I plant, located in the municipality of Barra dos Coqueiros (SE), has an installed power of 1.5 GW with consumption of 6 million m3/day of natural gas. The project can meet on average 15% of the northeast's demand and it is extremely strategic to enable the growth of the renewable energy in the country.”
Glauco Maximiano de Campos, CEO of CELSE, said, “Port of Sergipe I Complex project represents a milestone for Brazil, adding to the system a large-capacity plant that operates in a safe, reliable, flexible, efficient and sustainable way, which brings stability to the country’s electricity matrix and helps to reduce the risk of rationing and/or blackouts.”
Eric Gray, president of GE Gas Power for the Americas region, explains that the world’s fifth-largest nation has an interconnected power grid, which allows the electricity generated by the plant to be shipped almost anywhere in the country.
The plant burns gas that has been regasified from liquefied natural gas (LNG), a supercooled fuel that arrives at a nearby regasification terminal in the hulls of huge ships from the United States, Qatar, the Caribbean and West Africa.
The project is also notable for using a modular-based construction process — where engineers connected giant parts of the plant on-site like massive puzzle pieces. This included the gas turbine enclosure that houses the machinery, which consists of several pieces, each around the size of a shipping container. Several parts of the steam system, including the critical steam pipes and interconnections within the service platforms, air extraction modules and fuel control modules, were also manufactured off-site, and then assembled the same way. GE Gas Power estimates that this “plug-and-play” system saved around 400,000 man-hours of work — reducing the construction schedule at Porto de Sergipe I by three months, with up to a 30% reduction on the HRSG installation, improving manufacturing quality and consistency while lowering the overall safety risk of the on-site team.
Additionally, under a 25-year, multiyear services agreement, GE will operate and maintain the facility and provide GE Digital’s Remote Operations, Asset Performance Management, Operations Optimization and Cybersecurity Digital Solutions — all of which seek to predict and potentially reduce unplanned downtime, and to improve power plant productivity.
GE also built the infrastructure needed to transport the energy produced by CELSE to the Brazilian interconnected system: 33 kilometers of overhead power lines and a 500-kilovolt substation that steps up the power into high voltages for long-distance transmission.
“The scope and nature of this project were extraordinary. We are proud to have completed this exciting turnkey project, which required engagement with a wide range of stakeholders: thousands of local workers, community leaders, local businesses and government,” says Gray.
Thirty miles east of Poughkeepsie in Dover, New York, the Cricket Valley Energy Center occupies an old industrial site that was vacant for 20 years. Today, the place also points to the way of decarbonization in the energy industry.
The 1,100-megawatt Cricket Valley power plant, in operation since 2020, is one of the most efficient combined-cycle power plants in the state. It is capable of providing the equivalent electricity needed by 1 million homes with three GE 7F.05 gas turbines that run on natural gas, a cleaner-burning fuel that can help utilities add baseload power and allow them to retire coal-fired power plants. And now it’s on a trajectory to become even more sustainable.
In an agreement signed with GE last week, Cricket Valley will undertake a demonstration project, starting in late 2022, by running one of its three turbines on a blend of natural gas with 5% “green hydrogen” by volume — hydrogen produced with renewable energy. It’s the first step in a process that could lead to converting the entire plant into a 100% green-hydrogen-burning facility over the next decade — and marks another boost in the burgeoning effort to deploy hydrogen as part of the transition to cleaner energy.
The initiative, dubbed the H2 Roadmap, is intended to support New York state’s goal of 100% zero-carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2040, a target announced in the state’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the most ambitious by any U.S. state. The H2 Roadmap will facilitate research and development in the hydrogen sector by testing percentages of hydrogen utilization in the fuel mix as the clean fuel becomes more available.
“As a leader in providing reliable, dispatchable power generation, we enlisted GE’s extensive experience with hydrogen to support the development of lower-carbon technologies in the state of New York,” said Chuck Davis, president of Advanced Power Asset Management, which manages the facility. “With this agreement, we will begin to define a roadmap for the conversion of recently constructed natural-gas-fired power plants to lower- and zero-carbon fuels.”
The Cricket Valley plan is the second boost “green hydrogen” has received this month in the state of New York. On July 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will conduct a pilot project in 2021 to temporarily replace natural gas with a blend of natural gas and “green hydrogen” at its Brentwood Power Station on Long Island. GE Gas Power will play an integral role in that project also, supplying the hydrogen/natural gas blending system and supporting the project’s planning and execution.
Beyond New York, the Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Hannibal, Ohio, is another power plant that is expected to go online later this year with a hydrogen-and-gas blend. The 485-megawatt facility will be the first purpose-built power plant in the United States to burn hydrogen and will use a powerful new gas turbine made by GE to produce enough electricity to light up the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. homes. And in Australia, the EnergyAustralia utility is building that nation’s first gas-and-hydrogen power plant, which will use a GE 9F.05 gas-fired turbine to churn out approximately 316 megawatts of quickly dispatchable power that will help offset the energy that will be lost when a nearby coal-fired facility is decommissioned.
To be sure, “green hydrogen” must overcome several obstacles before it can become a viable replacement fuel. The price will need to come down by about 50%, according to S&P Global. For example, green hydrogen producers could tap more renewable power during periods when a wind farm is spinning out more power than the operator can send to the grid or store.
GE is well positioned to help during this crucial phase of the energy transition. More than 75 GE gas turbines have already racked up over 6 million operating hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels, much of it at factories that create hydrogen as a by-product and feed it back into the turbines that drive their plants.
“GE’s gas turbine technology, building on decades of our leadership in low-BTU fuel operations including hydrogen fuels, validates the important role existing technologies and assets can play in reducing carbon emissions,” Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Gas Power, said of the Cricket Valley agreement. “We are pleased to work with CVEC to support its efforts in achieving carbon neutrality across its operations, while demonstrating the collaboration essential for a decade of action to reduce carbon emissions from the power generation sector.”
The goal of using so-called "green hydrogen" in a multiprong approach to decarbonization took a big step forward last week when New York announced a demonstration project to assess the feasibility of using hydrogen-blend fuels in an existing power generation facility.
Starting this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will conduct a pilot project to temporarily replace natural gas with a "green hydrogen" and natural gas blend at its Brentwood Power Station on Long Island. GE Power will play an integral role in the project. The power station runs on a GE LM6000 combustion turbine originally derived from an aircraft engine.
While most hydrogen is made via steam methane reforming — in which natural gas (CH4) reacts with steam under pressure and heat to produce hydrogen, CO and CO2 — green hydrogen is made through electrolysis. In this process, an electric current, derived from a renewable power source, splits water (H2O) into its constituent elements to produce oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). Using renewable power that does not generate CO2 emissions and water that does not contain carbon means there is no CO2 generated in this process.
This is not the first time GE has had a hand in advancing hydrogen fuels. This fall, a 485-megawatt power plant in Hannibal, Ohio, is expected to begin generating electricity using a hydrogen-and-gas blend. The facility, operated by Long Ridge Energy, will be the first one in the United States purpose-built to burn hydrogen. It will use a massive new gas turbine made by GE to output enough power to light up the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. homes.
Long Ridge intends to begin providing lower-carbon power utilizing this hydrogen-and-natural-gas blend, aiming to transition the plant to be capable of burning 100% hydrogen over the next decade.
Meanwhile, south of Sydney, the EnergyAustralia utility is building that nation’s first gas-and-hydrogen power plant, using a GE 9F.05 gas-fired turbine to churn out approximately 316 megawatts of quickly dispatchable power that will go a long way toward replacing the energy provided by a soon-to-be-decommissioned coal-fired facility in the area.
Projects also require policy and governance to play a key role in a successful energy transition. “If society commits to decarbonization, and everyone is willing to make the additional investments, those will combine with government subsidies and other initiatives towards a lower-carbon economy and society,” said GE Gas Power’s “Fuel Guy” Jeffrey Goldmeer.
The New York initiative is part of the state’s long-term decarbonization strategy, which aims to reduce emissions 85% by 2050. The governor also announced that the state will collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other hydrogen-focused organizations to inform state decision-making and will award $12.5 million to projects aimed at long-duration energy storage (LDES) solutions that would advance integration of new sustainable energy technologies.
“Part of our ongoing efforts is setting an example for other states and nations to follow,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release statement. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, we are exploring every resource available as a potential tool to address climate change.”
More than 75 GE gas turbines have already racked up over 6 million operating hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels, much of it at factories that create hydrogen as a by-product and feed it back into the turbines that drive their plants.
“Decarbonization was not necessarily the target” when GE built the expertise to run power stations on hydrogen, said Brian Gutknecht, chief marketing officer at GE Gas Power. The idea was to burn waste gas “so economically it had good value. But now we can help the world decarbonize with the experience that we’ve had.”
According to the governor’s announcement, the Brentwood demonstration project also will involve collaboration from the Electric Power Research Institute, engineers Sargent and Lundy, hydrogen supplier Airgas and Fresh Meadow Power. GE’s role will be to supply a hydrogen/natural gas blending system and support the project’s planning and execution.” Peer-reviewed results will be shared with the industry and the public upon the project’s completion.
“We look forward to utilizing our 80-plus years of gas turbine development experience — including 6 million operating hours using alternative low-heating-value fuels including hydrogen — to accelerate a more reliable, affordable and sustainable energy future,” Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Power, said about the project.
Long reliant on coal to make electricity, Australia is increasingly looking to renewable sources like wind and solar. But generating reliable, renewable power demands shoring up the grid when the breeze won’t blow and the sun won’t shine — and natural gas power is an efficient dispatchable power that can backstop these sources, and help immediately reduce emissions from coal-fired power.
That’s why projects like EnergyAustralia’s new Tallawarra B Power Station in New South Wales, just south of Sydney, are critical to Australia’s seismic clean-energy transformation. This so-called “peaker” plant — powered by a GE 9F.05 gas turbine — will smooth supply gaps by generating approximately 316 megawatts of quickly dispatchable power, enough to light the equivalent of 150,000 Australian homes, and partially replace 1.7 gigawatts lost when a nearby coal-fired power station shutters in 2023.
Unlike the rest of GE’s installed F-class fleet — which has clocked 24 million operating hours across 40 countries — Tallawarra’s gas turbine will be the first 9F unit to run on a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. When combined with air and burned, hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element, can drive a modern gas turbine, reducing carbon emissions potentially down to zero. More than 75 GE turbines have racked up 6 million hours burning hydrogen or low BTU fuels, including waste products from steel mills and refineries.
Backed by $83 million from the Australian government and the New South Wales federal state (about US$64 million), Tallawarra B will also be the first gas project built in more than a decade. It also promises to be a foundational customer for a potentially powerful hydrogen-supply hub.
“Hydrogen is quickly emerging as a major economic opportunity for our state, and this investment will keep us ahead of the curve by positioning New South Wales as a world leader in hydrogen production,” says NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
Bathed in sunshine and filled with windy, open spaces, Australia is on a path to generate 41% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, up from 27% today. Hydrogen production, with 20 new projects in development countrywide, will help fuel this growth further.
By far the most ambitious effort is the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, funded by $22 billion from a consortium of four renewable producers. The AREH calls for 1,600 wind turbines and 78 square kilometers of solar panels in the western Pilbara region. Expected to launch in 2025, it’s anticipated that the massive installation will generate 26 GW, more than Australia’s entire coal-fired fleet, of which 14 GW will be used to convert desalinated seawater into “green” hydrogen via electrolysis. In this process, an electric current — itself derived from a renewable power source — splits water to produce oxygen and hydrogen.
Expensive as it is to wrench molecules apart, wind and solar installations can use surplus electricity on windy, sunny days to make hydrogen, effectively turning the gas into a battery and reducing production costs. Over time and with scale, producers aim to drive the cost of hydrogen close to $1 per kilogram, competitive with fossil fuels.
But exporting hydrogen in large quantities, as Australia has done with liquid natural gas, could be the next step. “Australia wants to be the hydrogen supply depot to Asia,” says Jeff Goldmeer, emerging technologies director at GE Gas Power. “But to do it, they have to anchor their own demand.”
Little surprise, then, that many eyes are on Tallawarra. Under its funding arrangement, the plant will buy 200,000 tons of green hydrogen per year, initially 5% of the turbine’s overall fuel mix. Boosting that hydrogen concentration (along with shelling out for carbon-offset permits) will help EnergyAustralia meet its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions over the life of the plant.
“This project sets a new benchmark for how gas generators can be consistent with NSW’s plan to be net-zero by 2050 by using green hydrogen and offsetting residual emissions,” says Matt Kean, New South Wales Minister for Energy and Environment.
At the same time, hydrogen invites a variety of challenges in power generation. When burned, hydrogen’s hungry flames can speed back toward a turbine’s fuel nozzles, damaging the equipment (a pesky phenomenon called “flame holding”).
Tallawarra’s 9F gas turbine can burn a fuel mix with up to 18% hydrogen when outfitted with GE’s DLN 2.6+ combustion system. Meanwhile, upgrades enabling even higher hydrogen concentrations — up to 100% — are possible today with GE’s MNQC combustor and, in the future, with next-generation DLN combustion technology already in development.
“It will likely take years to build out the hydrogen-supply infrastructure,” Goldmeer says. “By then, we’ll have newer combustion technology ready for them. However, for now, gas-fired power is already playing a significant role in achieving carbon reduction goals at scale. Gas is already providing affordable power and it is also helping backstop the growth of intermittent energy sources like wind and solar around the world. The solution for the power sector will not be an either-or decision between renewables and natural gas. It will require a multipronged approach to decarbonization with renewables and natural gas power at its core. A decade of actions has started.”
Thursday, April 22, marks the 51st Earth Day, and governments, companies, as well as ordinary people concerned about the planet’s climate are taking part in events celebrating the birth of the modern environmental movement. The White House, for example, is hosting a Leaders Summit on Climate this week that will bring together representatives of 17 countries responsible for some 80% of global carbon emissions and also global gross domestic product (GDP), as well a business and civil society leaders, including Danielle Merfeld, vice president and chief technology officer at GE Renewable Energy. They will discuss ways to cut carbon emissions, new technologies that can help with decarbonization, helping vulnerable countries exposed to climate change, and other topics.
The way forward includes renewable energy and wind and solar energy are already an important part of the massive infrastructure plan currently being debated in Washington, D.C. Proposals include extending tax credits and building enough offshore wind turbines to capture 30 gigawatts of wind energy by 2030. That would be enough to power the equivalent of more than 10 million American homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million metric tons. Meanwhile, countries around the world are mandating reductions in carbon emissions from power generation, and more than two dozen large U.S. utilities have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Curbing coal use, which produces one-third of all carbon emissions worldwide, is another key priority. “There’s no doubt that the electricity sector is the lead horse in decarbonization,” said former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently at a Washington Post Live “The Future of Energy” event sponsored by GE. “The investor-owned utilities are heading toward 50% reductions in emissions in this decade and are prepared to pick up the pace even more in response to the president’s challenges.”
GE, whose technology supplies more than one-third of the world’s electricity, is taking on climate change by making sustainable energy generation a priority of its business and research. GE Renewable Energy, for instance, is working on huge wind power projects in Oklahoma and New Mexico that will each generate more than a gigawatt of power. Its offshore wind turbines and power transmission technology has been selected for projects in the North Sea and off the East Coast of the U.S. In Europe, Australia and other countries, it’s developing hydropower as another low-carbon alternative in a future powered by renewables. In Asia, GE is working toward replacing coal-powered generators with its latest turbines that use natural gas, which can produce as much as 60% less carbon than coal-fired power stations. And because the sun isn’t always shining nor the wind blowing, the company also is working to combine storage with renewables and help make wind and solar energy available on demand. One such project is proposed to go up in upstate New York.
Retooling the future of energy is going to be a group effort and GE’s got hundreds of engineers on the case. Here is a selection of the most recent projects involving GE that seek to help lower the world’s carbon emissions.
The Haliade-X offshore wind turbine was designed to evolve with the market, and evolve it has. The initial model produced 12 megawatts — and even at that level, a single rotation of the machine’s blades could generate the equivalent amount of power to supply one U.K. household for two days. But when engineers tested a Haliade-X prototype, they found it could be optimized to produce 13 MW. Now an even more powerful version will be rated at 14 MW — and it’s that machine that’s just been selected for Dogger Bank C, the third phase of the U.K.’s Dogger Bank wind farm. (At its 13-MW rating, the Haliade-X had previously been selected for the first two phases of the project.) When it’s completed in 2026, Dogger Bank is expected to be the largest offshore wind installation in the world.
Leading the way: “This unique project will both continue to build on the U.K.'s leadership in offshore wind and serve as a showcase for innovative technology that is helping to provide cleaner, renewable energy,” said John Lavelle, president and CEO of Offshore Wind at GE Renewable Energy. But the U.K. is not the only nation transforming its energy sector and using more wind power. (In December, wind generated 40% of British electricity, a new record.) Vineyard Wind, an 800-MW farm off the coast of Massachusetts, announced last December that it had selected GE Renewable Energy as the preferred turbine supplier for the project.
Top image: One blade for the Haliade-X measures 107 meter from end to end. Image credit: GE Renewable Energy.
GE Renewable Energy announced in April that it has been selected to provide more than 500 onshore wind turbines for a massive new installation in Oklahoma that is projected to produce 1,485 megawatts of renewable energy. It is expected to be the largest combined onshore wind project in GE’s history to date. The North Central Wind Energy Facilities are being developed by Invenergy — a leading, privately held global developer of sustainable energy projects — and American Electric Power (AEP).
A critical transition: The project will encompass three large wind farms located in the north-central part of the state — the 999-megawatt Traverse Wind Energy Center, the 287-megawatt Maverick Wind Energy Center and the 199-megawatt Sundance Wind Energy Center. Construction of the three installations, which will be owned and operated by AEP, is currently scheduled to be completed in early 2022. Right now, the U.S. generates about 8% of its utility-scale electricity from the wind. But as projects such as North Central and Western Wind Spirit, a 1,050 MW project in central New Mexico that will also be powered by GE turbines, come online, that figure will start to grow and become more impactful.
GE released a report in December detailing how natural gas can help power a lower-carbon future: With the output of renewables like wind and solar linked to the weather, gas turbines can step in quickly to keep the electric grid in balance. But natural gas isn’t the only fuel those turbines can process. They can also run on hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element, which can yield zero CO2 emissions. And they can also run on a mixture of gas and hydrogen. Now a proof of that concept is rising on the banks of the Ohio River. GE is working on the first purpose-built power plant in the U.S. where a turbine from the company’s most advanced turbine fleet — the HA — will start burning a blend of natural gas and hydrogen and aims to transition to 100% hydrogen by 2030.
Elementally powerful: Scheduled to come online this fall, the 485-megawatt plant in Hannibal, Ohio — operated by Long Ridge Energy Terminal — should have enough capacity to light the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. homes. The technology is something GE has experience with: More than 75 GE gas turbines have already racked up over 6 million operating hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels. “It’s something we can do today,” said GE Gas Power’s Brian Gutknecht. At first, hydrogen will constitute between 15-20% by volume in the gas stream going into the turbine in the Hannibal plant, which aims to increase that proportion over time until the machine runs solely on hydrogen in a decade or so — which would eliminate approximately up to 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Hydrogen may be plentiful, but it has some hurdles to overcome before it can be widely adopted. Learn more here about the technologies that will enable the hydrogen revolution.
How should fast-growing economies in Asia balance their rapidly expanding need for electricity with their goal of cutting emissions? Urban density and geography make large-scale wind and solar farms difficult in some areas, but Malaysia may have an answer. Southern Power Generation turned to GE Gas Power’s advanced turbines, which can spin natural gas into lower-carbon electricity. In February SPG became the first power producer in the world to use a pair of GE’s 9HA.02 turbines to generate electricity. And in March, GE announced it has secured another Malaysian order for two more turbines in the 9HA family.
Gas for growth: It’s welcome news for Malaysia, which is targeting a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The SPG plant is located in Pasir Gudang, an industrial city at the southern tip of Malaysia’s peninsula, just a few miles from Singapore. In general, the carbon footprint of a natural gas power plant can be 60% lower than that of a coal plant, according to a recent report published by GE.
The hulking blue edifice of the Martin Drake Power Plant does not top most tourists’ to-do lists when they visit Colorado Springs, Colorado. But it could soon serve as a blueprint for energy providers seeking to cut their carbon footprint and bring more renewable energy online. Colorado Springs Utilities, which had planned to decommission the coal-burning plant in 2035, was able to accelerate its plans by more than a decade thanks to six innovative GE gas units the utility expects to turn on next year. Once the GE gas units are up and running, Springs Utilities, as it’s known locally, forecasts CO2 emissions will decline 80% by 2030 — a big win for the community. Another big win? The cost of power production should also fall as the utility shuts down the 40-year-old Drake plant, benefitting local customers.
Straight aero: The six innovative gas units at the center of this deal are the LM2500EXPRESS. They are so-called “aeroderative” turbines because their beating heart is technology GE originally developed for the CF6 jet engine. The units can ramp up very quickly — just like lifting Air Force One, which uses four CF6 engines — and can also quickly power down. The GE turbine’s ability to generate power on demand within minutes makes it an effective bridge for utilities seeking to move away from coal and use more wind and solar power — which is all part of GE’s larger gas and renewable power strategy. “As we take on more renewable power from wind or solar, there’s volatility,” says Thomas Cook, managing engineer for Colorado Springs Utilities operating engineering group. “We need to have units that are responsive and able to fill any gaps to ensure the reliability of our system is solid.”
Renewable energy is growing at great speed. By 2040, according to the International Energy Agency, wind and solar are expected to add 74% of net new generation capacity around the world. But what if they could expand even faster? What if you could store megawatts generated on a windy and sunny Sunday, when the power may not be needed, and release it on Monday morning as factories open for business? Add in smart software that acts as a traffic cop and sends power — either on the grid when demand is high or stores it in big batteries — and you can get closer to making renewables available on demand, regardless of the weather or the time of the day.
The next frontier: That’s the idea behind a big, new solar project in upstate New York. GE Renewable Energy announced in March it has been selected to build what is expected to become the largest hybrid solar energy storage system in the state. The owner and operator, Convergent Energy + Power, will place the system at three rural locations near Lake Ontario. It is planned to be capable of handling 123 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to supply the equivalent of 5,400 U.S. homes. “Hybrid is the next frontier in renewables,” says Mike Bowman, chief technology officer of GE’s Renewable Hybrids business. “It’s a paradigm change driven by technology development and market development.” Bowman says GE is in a position “to make a huge impact and be a leader in the space." “We’ve got the right horsepower, the right people, the capabilities, the connections and the brand. We’re excited about it.”
Australia’s grid is at a crossroads. The country has relied on coal to generate its power for decades, but as coal is cycled out, the country needs other sources of energy to replace it. It plans to build 26 to 50 gigawatts of new wind and solar facilities and — to smooth out swings in renewable generation caused by the weather — add another 19 GW of power plants that run on natural gas and batteries that can step in when the wind stops blowing. One powerful energy storage solution involves pumped-storage hydropower.
The water under the hill: Pumped-storage hydro utilizes a relatively simple setup: two connected lakes, one elevated above the other, and a set of turbines, generators and pumps that shuttle water between them. In favorable conditions, excess energy from wind and solar farms can turn the giant pumps and push water up to the higher reservoir. When demand on the grid spikes, the operators can open the gates, and gravity will take the water downhill through turbines and generate more electrons for the grid. “You’re creating a giant battery that you can literally use on a rainy day,” says Martin Kennedy, head of sales for hydropower at GE Renewable Energy in Australia. With two new agreements signed last year, GE Renewable Energy and Australia are diving headfirst into a future driven by pumped hydro.
Conceived by the utility giant RWE, the Sofia offshore wind farm is expected to generate 1.4 gigawatts off the coast of England when it comes online in the middle of the decade. GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions division struck a deal last fall, together with Sembcorp Marine, to bring electricity onshore from Sofia through a 220-kilometer-long subsea cable. In September, GE and Sembcorp signed the full contract for the transmission system, which includes both the offshore converter platform and onshore converter station.
Castle in the sea: Bringing electricity onshore involves huge, impregnable offshore fortresses called converter stations, which stand in the middle of the sea, pool the electricity generated by the dispersed turbines, and package it for transmission via an undersea cable. GE has plans to build one of the most powerful and most remote offshore converter stations in the world, an ambitious undertaking that relies on expertise the company has gained over the years at its research park in Stafford, England. The heart of the station will be a system of valves to convert the alternating current from the turbines to high voltage direct current (HVDC) for efficient transport; the brain of it will be sophisticated digital controls that give operators a comprehensive view of the entire system.
As we mentioned above, sources of renewable energy like wind and solar farms are expected to add the majority of net new generation capacity over the next decades. But that also means that when winds die down and the sun sets other resources will need to step up to make sure there’s always enough power on the grid to meet demand. Last fall, GE Gas Power published a report on how natural gas and the latest generation of gas turbines can be just the solution that renewables need to ease their growth. “Think of the gas turbines as a shock absorber that’s balancing the demand on the grid,” says Brian Gutknecht, marketing leader at GE Gas Power. “I have demand that’s varying, I’ve got supply from renewables that’s varying, and the gas turbine that’s in between balancing constantly: up and down.” Another cool thing about those gas turbines? Gas isn’t the only fuel they’ll burn.
Mix and match: Switching from coal to gas can reduce emissions by up to 60%, but that’s just the beginning. Another big switch could be from gas to hydrogen. The most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen could yield zero CO2 emissions. GE’s gas turbines need only minor modifications to use hydrogen in combination with natural gas or on its own. The 485-megawatt plant in Hannibal, Ohio, for instance (see above), will start burning a blend of natural gas and hydrogen, and aims to transition to 100% hydrogen by 2030.
In the five decades since the first Earth Day, the world has made much progress in understanding the perils posed by climate change and finding the solutions we need. But we are far from done. The switch to electric cars alone will force us to reimagine not only how we make electricity, but also how we distribute it.
Renewables are clearly a big part of the future of energy, but so are natural gas, energy storage, hydropower and the digital grid. Other industries, like aviation, must also decarbonize to help prevent the planet from warming.
How should we get to the low-carbon future? Scientists at GE Research have some ideas. One team, for example, is building a superconducting generator for wind turbines to boost their efficiency and help lower energy costs. Another group of researchers at LM Wind Power, a subsidiary of GE Renewable Energy, is using 3D-printing technology to make lighter and stronger turbine blade tips, while also seeking in the future to make those same blades fully recyclable at the end of their lifespan. Their colleagues also are 3D-printing parts of wind turbine towers. Elsewhere, GE scientists are using powerful supercomputers to improve wind farm design and take gas turbines to the next level. Take a look.
A discovery made in the coldest cold more than a century ago is heating up GE’s wind turbine research. In 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes found that electrons, which usually lose energy as they careen around an electrical conductor, met no resistance in a mercury wire cooled to near absolute zero — the lowest possible temperature, minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. That phenomenon, known as superconductivity, can help computer chips run faster and it enabled magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), among other things. Now superconductivity may be paving the way to more efficient generators for powerful offshore wind turbines.
How cool is this: Backed by a $20.3 million contract from the Department of Energy, GE researchers are looking for ways superconducting generators can help lower wind energy costs, simplify the turbine manufacturing supply chain and support the DOE’s goal of nearly tripling wind power’s share of U.S. energy production to 20% over the next decade.
In terms of fuel efficiency, commercial aviation has come a long way: The amount of fuel used per passenger has dropped 80% since 1960. Still, those savings have been offset by the skyrocketing growth of passenger aviation in the same period, leading aircraft and engine designers to search for new ways to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment in the decades to come. “We need something fundamentally different to take the next leap,” said John Yagielski, senior principal engineer at GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York. Yagielski and his colleagues are at work on that fundamentally different something: an electrically driven propulsion system powerful and light enough to keep aloft a 175,000-pound commercial airliner and its 175 passengers.
2050 vision: That goal is being backed up by $4.8 million in new research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — and it will be no small feat. The challenge is figuring out how to convert a cleaner-burning biofuel into megawatts of electricity, and then how to turn that electrical energy into enough thrust to fly a Boeing 737-class jet. But that challenge is also an invitation for the GE engineers to reimagine what an aircraft engine looks like, drawing up new designs that might be more efficient for flight than the traditional model of engines beneath each wing. “It’s about proving the feasibility of a number of these technologies and convincing ARPA-E to invest in building a complete prototype and testing it,” Yagielski said. “This is for aircraft in the 2050s.”
If you regularly drive long distances, it’s a good idea to pop your car’s hood every few months for a thorough inspection. But if you’re only running to the supermarket once a week, you may be able to take a rain check on that quarterly checkup. That’s the approach engineers at GE Renewable Energy are now using to service wind turbines. They are calling it “odometer maintenance,” and it could mean more money in the bank for the wind farm operator and more renewables online for everyone else. “You don’t necessarily need to change your car’s oil if it’s been sitting in the driveway for months,” says Brian Theilemann, global services continuous improvement leader at GE Renewable Energy. “It’s the same with a wind turbine. We’re shifting away from a time-based approach to maintenance, to a usage-based approach.”
Time shift: Theilemann and his team are using software that ingests mountains of hard data about power output, wind speed, internal and external temperatures, bearing usage and even the type of oil used to lubricate a turbine’s gearbox. The software’s statistical model then delivers insights that help them determine the favored time for maintenance, which can extend the time a turbine stays online during the windy season. In fact, power producers can leverage odometer maintenance to schedule a fleet checkup during the less windy months of the year, which are less lucrative in terms of wholesale power revenues.
The wind industry is quickly growing up and so are wind turbines. That’s because they can generate more energy by reaching higher where the winds are stronger. In fact, by raising the height of existing turbines, it’s estimated wind farm operators could increase their output by up to 30%. Building taller turbines hasn’t been easy. They can be hard to transport and expensive to install — but every challenge can also be an opportunity. GE Renewable Energy, together with two innovative European companies, is aiming to 3D-print a solution.
Concrete gains: GE teamed up with LafargeHolcim, a global leader in building materials, and COBOD, which is developing ways to 3D-print structures from concrete. Together they are seeking to use 3D printing and high-performance concrete to manufacture wind turbine bases on-site that could add 80 meters or more to the turbines’ height. What might that look like? COBOD came up with a system that uses a printhead running on an elevated track — like a magic marker with a tip the size of a milk jug. Line by line, the tip releases concrete (a special blend developed by LafargeHolcim) through a print nozzle as it follows its programmed course. “It’s an automated construction factory on wheels that we have, and we could bring it to the site,” said Henrik Lund-Nielsen, COBOD’s founder and general manager.
GE has used 3D printing to make a number of parts for jet engines and gas turbines. It now wants to apply additive manufacturing to the way wind turbine blades are made. GE Renewable Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy set up a partnership earlier this year that will 3D-print turbine blade tips that could be lighter and stiffer compared to current designs, and even recyclable.
Fit to print: The last 10 to 15 meters of a wind turbine blade (the “tip”) captures as much as 40% of the wind energy that spins the generator. That’s why they are the focus of this 25-month, $6.7 million project. GE and its partners plan to print a full-size blade tip assembled from a 3D-printed, skeleton-like structure, and covered with thermoplastic skin. The GE team and its partners, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, plan to test the structural properties of one tip in a lab and expect to install another three tips on a wind turbine. GE Renewable Energy’s subsidiary LM Wind Power, which makes blades for onshore and offshore turbines, could eventually use the technology on an industrial scale.
LM Wind Power is one of the world’s largest makers of blades for wind turbines. These blades are designed to last for more than 20 years, but what happens to them when they are done spinning? Too often they end up in landfills, lined up like dinosaur bones, because viable recycling solutions are not widely available. LM Wind Power wants to change that. The company, which became carbon neutral in 2018, is working with the wind industry and recycling industry to scale up sustainable solutions for recycling blades that are already in use, while at the same time designing blades that can be more easily recycled in the future.
Group effort: Last fall, LM Wind Power’s parent company, GE Renewable Energy, partnered with Veolia North America to co-process decommissioned blades in the manufacturing of Portland cement, the most common ingredient in concrete. And in January, a group of Danish companies that includes LM Wind Power won funding from the country’s authorities for a three-year project, DecomBlades, focused on upscaling recycling technologies for decommissioned blades. GE Renewable Energy will also collaborate with Carbon Rivers, a startup at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and other partners to develop a system for recycling glass fiber from blade parts. And LM Wind Power is also working with its supply chain to identify opportunities “Preventing waste before it occurs is the best way to reduce our impact on the planet, and it’s simply good business,” says Hanif Mashal, vice president of engineering and technology at LM Wind Power. The company’s waste reduction in blade manufacturing has yielded more than $33 million in savings since 2016.
Wind’s a renewable source, of course — but that’s not the same as being unlimited, according to a fascinating new paper in Nature Energy. It finds that giant turbines at wind farms suck in so much moving air that they can cause detectable decreases in wind speeds as far as 30 miles away, giving the upwind farmer a distinct advantage over the downwind farmer and emphasizing the need for more careful planning. The realization that there’s only so much wind to go around in a given region is also fueling work at GE Research, where lead mechanical engineer Lawrence Cheung has been harnessing the power of modern supercomputers to gain an elaborate understanding of how wind works in the real world. Knowledge like that is increasingly valuable for countries and energy producers seeking the most optimal arrangement of renewable sources of energy.
Not just hot air: Cheung’s latest work can model airflow across a wind farm that spans 5,000 acres (or more than 3,780 football fields). Known as computational fluid dynamics simulations, his supercomputer models break wind farms up into hundreds of millions of individual cubic meters for a granular understanding. His goal isn’t to eliminate the wind-wake problem, but to understand the precise impact of the slower air after it passes through a turbine in different wind farm configurations. That way, the cost of reducing wind wake can be weighed against the price of building farms with more widely spaced turbines. With coordinated wind energy development, everybody win(d)s.
Fun fact: Engine turbines, including those in airplane engines, can run hotter than the melting point of their parts — yet the parts don’t melt. That may seem counterintuitive to most of us, but it’s all in a day’s work for engineers at GE Research, who pursue a deep understanding of how heat flows through engine turbines. Why? Because it’s a key element to a broader challenge: Given the central role turbines play in aircraft engines and electrical generation, even tiny tweaks in design could lead to enormous savings in cost and efficiency. Part of that work involves running computer simulations, said GE Research engineer Rick Arthur: “Just like biologists use microscopes or astronomers use telescopes, high-fidelity simulations empower researchers to see what they otherwise could not.” The fidelity’s about to get even higher, as GE Research has been granted the use of one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.
Sim city: That’d be Summit, housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The supercomputer will allow the researchers to create realistic simulations of turbulent heat flows coursing through engines better than they could with older computer models of turbines, which simply couldn’t process the data fast enough. “It opens up a whole new area of predictions we never would have been able to do,” says Michal Osusky, a lead thermosciences engineer at GE Research. “It wasn’t that the methodology wasn’t there. It’s more that the computing resources weren’t there at the necessary scale.”
When a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Air Tahiti Nui took off from the Faa’a International Airport on the Pacific Island of Tahiti last May, the pilots weren’t planning on setting world records; they were flying home French nationals who got stranded there due to international travel bans caused by COVID-19. But when they touched down in Paris 15 hours and 45 minutes and 9,765 miles later, they just happened to complete the longest reported commercial nonstop flight. In 2019, another Dreamliner operated by Qantas and enlisted for a research project flew even further — a 10,000-mile journey between New York and Sydney.
Both planes had something in common. They were powered by GEnx jet engines, which get their edge in part from fan blades made from carbon fiber composites and other technologies GE spent years developing to make them lighter and more efficient. The engines are just one example of the tech the company is working on to help take industries like aviation, renewable energy, and healthcare into the future. Take a look at our list of the most recent innovations.
Last fall GE released a report detailing how natural gas can power a low-carbon future: With the output of renewables like wind and solar linked to the weather, gas turbines can step in quickly to keep the electric grid in balance. But natural gas isn’t the only fuel those turbines can process. They can also run on hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element, which can drastically reduce CO2 emissions at the plant site. And they can also run on a mixture of gas and hydrogen. Now a proof of that concept is rising on the banks of the Ohio River. GE is working on the first purpose-built power plant in the U.S. where a turbine from the company’s most advanced turbine fleet — the HA — will start burning a blend of natural gas and hydrogen and aims to transition to 100% hydrogen by 2030.
Elementally powerful: Scheduled to come online this fall, the 485-megawatt plant in Hannibal, Ohio — operated by Long Ridge Energy Terminal — will have enough capacity to light the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. homes. The technology is something GE has experience with: More than 75 GE gas turbines have already racked up over 6 million operating hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels. “It’s something we can do today,” said GE Gas Power’s Brian Gutknecht. At first, hydrogen will constitute 15% of the overall fuel mix going into the turbine in the Hannibal plant, which aims to increase that proportion over time — which would eliminate approximately up to 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.
GE has used 3D printing to make parts for jet engines and gas turbines. It now wants to apply additive manufacturing to the way wind turbine blades are made. GE Renewable Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy set up a partnership last month that will 3D-print turbine blade tips that could be lighter and stiffer compared to current designs, and even recyclable.
Fit to print: In a vigorous wind, the last 10 to 15 meters of a spinning wind turbine blade can approach one-quarter of the speed of sound. These sections also capture as much as 40% of the wind energy that spins the generator. That’s why they are the focus of this 25-month, $6.7 million project. GE and its partners will print a full-size blade tip assembled from a 3D-printed, skeleton-like structure, and covered with thermoplastic skin. The GE team and its partners, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will test the structural properties of one tip in a lab and install another three tips on a wind turbine. GE Renewable Energy’s subsidiary LM Wind Power, which makes blades for onshore and offshore turbines, eventually may be able to use the technology on an industrial scale.
A discovery made in the coldest cold more than a century ago is heating up GE’s wind turbine research. In 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes found that electrons, which usually lose energy as they careen around an electrical conductor, met no resistance in a mercury wire cooled near absolute zero — the lowest possible temperature of minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. That phenomenon, known as superconductivity, is influential in a host of applications such as speedy computer chips and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Now superconductivity may be paving the way to more efficient generators for powerful offshore wind turbines.
How cool is this: Backed by a $20.3 million contract from the Department of Energy, the GE researchers are looking for ways superconducting generators can help lower wind energy costs, simplify the turbine manufacturing supply chain and support the DOE’s goal of nearly tripling wind power’s share of U.S. energy production to 20% over the next decade.
In 1919, GE engineer Sanford Moss tested out a biplane equipped with a turbosupercharger, an engine contraption that enables planes to maintain their power at high altitudes. The technology helped launch the jet age, and it also launched GE Aviation, which celebrates a century of progress by focusing on what’s ahead — way ahead. Moss’s present-day colleagues are working on an engine for the next generation of civilian supersonic jets, which will get passengers from New York to London in just three hours. That’s astonishing technology for the 21st century, but the discerning traveler looking a little further in the future might also prefer the option of hypersonic travel: planes that fly at Mach 5, or faster than 3,500 miles an hour. At that speed, three hours get you from New York to Sydney.
Hyper(sonic) man: Recently GE Reports caught up with Narendra Joshi, advanced technology leader at GE Research, who told us his job is to “imagine what the future could be 100 years from now and to then make it possible.” He said the hypersonic age will require five key elements: “high-temperature materials, heat management technologies, engine design, advanced vehicle controls and technologies controlling emissions.” On the materials front, GE has already got a leg up with the ceramic matrix composites that figure into the advanced jet engines the company sells today. Lightweight and able to withstand high engine temperatures, CMCs might be one of the things that help engineers realize the sci-fi dream of hypersonic travel. It’s these and other advanced materials in GE’s portfolio, Joshi said, “that have us believing it’s not a question of if, but when it will happen.”
But speed is not the only goal in aviation. In terms of fuel efficiency, commercial aviation has also come a long way: The amount of fuel used per passenger has dropped 80% since 1960. Still, those savings have been offset by the skyrocketing growth of passenger aviation in the same period, leading aircraft and engine designers to search for new ways to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment in the decades to come. “We need something fundamentally different to take the next leap,” said John Yagielski, senior principal engineer at GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York. Yagielski and his colleagues are at work on something fundamentally different indeed: an electrically driven propulsion system powerful and light enough to keep aloft a 175,000-pound commercial airliner and its 175 passengers.
2050 vision: That goal is being backed up by $4.8 million in new research grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — and it will be no small feat. The challenge is figuring out how to convert a cleaner-burning biofuel into megawatts of electricity, and then how to turn that electrical energy into enough thrust to fly a Boeing 737-class jet. But that challenge is also an invitation for the GE engineers to reimagine what an aircraft engine looks like, drawing up new designs that might be more efficient for flight than the traditional model of engines beneath each wing. “It’s about proving the feasibility of a number of these technologies and convincing ARPA-E to invest in building a complete prototype and testing it,” Yagielski said. “This is for aircraft in the 2050s.
In 1895, the German physicist — and future Nobel laureate — Wilhelm Röntgen was experimenting with an electrified glass vacuum tube when he noticed that it produced mysterious rays that could pass through solid objects. He called them X-rays and launched the field of radiology. Soon Elihu Thomson, GE’s co-founder and first chief scientist, took up Röntgen’s work, designing an X-ray machine that could diagnose bone fractures. And Thomson pushed GE to open the research labs where another scientist, William Coolidge, would advance the field even further — toward technology like computed tomography, or CT. Now engineers at GE Research have helped add another powerful tool to the radiological toolbox — a technological breakthrough that can vastly expand CT’s already impressive imaging abilities and signals a new way to peer into the body.
A new way of seeing: Alongside colleagues at the Swedish startup Prismatic Sensors AB and GE Healthcare, GE researchers invented a new way to capture and analyze the X-rays passing through the body and render them into minutely detailed images. They say their method — which uses a technique called photon counting — could enable doctors to see deep inside the body with greater clarity and specificity, while exposing patients to less radiation than traditional CT scans. Bruno De Man, who leads GE Research’s radiation imaging team, said the technology could help doctors determine whether lung nodules are malignant or benign, obtain details of plaque to accurately diagnose cardiovascular diseases, or image bone microstructure to understand risks to osteoporosis patients. “Those are just three examples of applications that may benefit from this technology,” De Man said.
GE’s first acquisition under Culp: Scientists and engineers have been trying to perfect photon-counting CT for decades. Detectors made from silicon were particularly promising, but they also presented daunting technical challenges. Then a chance encounter in 2015 between GE scientists and Mats Danielsson, CEO of Prismatic Sensors, led to a breakthrough. With his colleagues, Danielsson had figured out the “Deep Silicon” technology that is at the heart of the new photon-counting detector. In an indication of how momentous the promise of this technology is, GE Healthcare announced plans last fall to acquire Prismatic — GE’s first acquisition since Larry Culp became the company’s chairman and CEO in 2018. “We believe this technology has the potential to be a substantial step forward for CT imaging that will benefit millions of patients worldwide,” said Kieran Murphy, president and CEO of GE Healthcare.
Emerging economies in Asia face a dilemma. They need more electricity to power economic growth, but they also want to cut emissions from coal they have relied on for decades. Switching from coal to natural gas can reduce a power plant’s carbon footprint by as much as 60%, according to a recent report published by GE. Meanwhile, urban density and geography prevent them from choosing options like large-scale wind or solar farms.
Take fast-growing Malaysia, which is targeting a 45% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The country of 33 million consists of several large, hilly islands and a peninsula where open land suitable for building large wind or solar farms is scarce.
That conundrum has led Southern Power Generation, a large Malaysian utility, to turn to GE Gas Power and its advanced turbines capable of efficiently turning natural gas and other fuels, including liquid fuel distillate as a backup into large amounts of lower-carbon electricity. In fact, this month SPG will become the first power producer in the world to use a pair of 9HA.02 turbines to generate electricity.
The turbines come from a new generation of GE machines that had already set a world power plant efficiency record. They are also equipped with a combustion system that allows them to burn up to 50% by volume of hydrogen when blended with natural gas, allowing SPG to have the option to utilize hydrogen or other lower or no-carbon fuels at some point in the future.
A 9HA.02 gas turbine at a GE test stand in Greenville, South Carolina. Image credit: GE Gas Power.
Top: SPG in Malaysia will become the first power producer in the world to use a pair of 9HA.02 turbines to generate electricity. Image credit: GE Gas Power.
SPG will install the new 1,440-megawatt plant in Pasir Gudang, an industrial city at the southern tip of Malaysia’s peninsula, just a few miles from Singapore. It will produce the equivalent power needed by 3 million Malaysian homes. The design is a so-called combined-cycle power plant where a gas turbine not only produces power but also supplies heat to a steam turbine that supplies more electricity “The availability of viable lower carbon technology has become a critical focus,” says SPG Chairman Dato’ Haji Nor Azman bin Mufti. “We have a longstanding relationship with GE and we trust its HA technology will help us meet the increasing power demand and contribute to long-term energy security needs in Malaysia.”
The plant’s compact configuration provides additional benefits. It allows utilities to build these power stations in places where a smaller footprint is required, like Pasir Gudang. The turbines arrive in modular containers that enable engineers to install them relatively quickly. (GE and SPG signed the contract to install the turbines in 2018.) The units are also set up for rapid inspection and maintenance.
“This gas technology will remain on the top edge of the industry for several years,” says Christophe Dufaut, leader of project execution support at GE Power. “It’s a plant that allows SPG to generate a significant amount of power in a reduced footprint, but which is also affordable in terms of capex, operations and maintenance.”
Located a short walk from downtown, the hulking blue edifice of Martin Drake Power Plant is hardly a destination site for people visiting Colorado Springs, Colorado. Still, it could soon serve as a blueprint for energy providers seeking to cut their carbon footprint and bring more renewables online.
The 40-year-old plant is one of the two coal-burning power stations that supply electricity to customers in the area and two years ago, Colorado Springs Utilities, the plant’s operator, started looking for a way to retire it. The utility wanted an energy source that would produce fewer carbon emissions, save money — coal plants are relatively expensive to run — and support the deployment of more renewable energy sources on the grid. It set a target date of 2035 to complete the project. But now it has found a solution that will allow the utility to move that deadline forward by more than a decade.
Springs Utilities, as it is locally known, will use six innovative GE LM2500XPRESS* gas units to reach its goal. Once commissioned, the technology will be able to generate a combined 204 megawatts for the utility’s customers. Springs Utilities serves 500,000 households in the Colorado Springs area and important government and military customers that include Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which monitors United States airspace against potential attack.
If anyone will have tech envy, it’s a sure bet it will be Springs Utilities’ Air Force customers. GE calls these units “aeroderatives” because their beating heart is technology that GE engineers originally developed for the CF6 jet engine. Their flexibility enables them to ramp up very quickly, just like lifting Air Force One, which uses four CF6 engines, and quickly power down like a plane that has just landed. This flexibility will enable Springs Utilities to support the growth of more renewables. “As we take on more renewable power from wind or solar, there’s volatility,” says Thomas Cook, engineering manager for Springs Utilities’ operating engineering group. “We need to have units that are responsive and able to fill any gaps to help ensure the reliability of our system is solid.”
But being able to vary output at a moment’s notice is just one benefit of the technology. The units, which run mainly on natural gas but can also use diesel, will be less expensive to run and maintain than the coal plant they are replacing. “Things break down and old plants need maintenance,” Cook says. He anticipates that “there will be substantial cost savings.”
Money won’t be the only thing the LM2500XPRESS units will save. They will help the utility cut CO2 emissions by up to 80% by 2030 from 2005 levels, lower nitrogen oxide emissions, and emit less particulate matter.
Before selecting the GE units, Springs Utilities went through a review process that included input from customers. “As a public utility, we are receptive to and interested in what the public is interested in,” Cook says. Managers at Springs Utilities compiled 19 separate portfolios of solutions for limiting emissions and shutting down the Drake plant, making reliability, environmental impact, and affordability their key factors.
Leaders in Colorado state government are among a growing number of state and local governments seeking to lower CO2 emissions. Colorado passed legislation last year that calls for an 80% reduction of carbon emissions statewide by 2030 and for utilities to convert to 100% renewable energy by 2040.
“GE is committed to a decade of action for industry-wide decarbonization through the strategic and accelerated deployment of complementary gas and renewable energy technologies. We are pleased to help Colorado Springs Utilities achieve a faster path toward decarbonization using GE’s LM2500XPRESS units. The flexible concept of this breakthrough technology made it Springs Utilities’ ideal choice with a quick installation, small footprint, and the ability to easily relocate the equipment in the future,” Eric Gray, CEO of GE Gas Power for the Americas.
Natural gas as a power generation source is a fast, effective way to shift utilities from coal to a cleaner energy pathway, with gas emitting 50% less carbon. Gas can also play a role in the future of energy with many eyeing renewable resources as reported in a recent white paper published by GE that looks at the fastest ways to decarbonization. But sometimes, the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. This is where GE gas turbines come in. “It’s a way to allow a large amount of renewables to come on to the grid but still deal with the intermittency that is part of the nature of renewables,” says Ty Remington, director for GE Gas Power Systems.
Springs Utilities is targeting the spring of 2022 to turn on the LM2500XPRESS units. The power producer can be confident in that target as GE manufactures the units into modules in the factory so projects can move faster. Then, the units can be assembled on-site in less than three weeks.
GE calls the units the LM2500EXPRESS, where LM stands for land-mounted — there is also a trailer-mounted “TM” version on wheels. It is the latest model in the LM2500 family of turbines which has installed more than 2,500 units globally accumulating more than 100 million operating hours.
GE Gas Power installed the first LM2500EXPRESS in Germany last year. The six turbines in Colorado with be the first of their kind installed in North America.
GE and Baker Hughes agreed to combine GE Oil & Gas and Baker Hughes to create a world-leading oil and gas technology and services provider. The new name of the company will be Baker Hughes, a GE Company.
With $32 billion of combined revenue and operations in more than 120 countries, Baker Hughes, a GE Company, will draw from GE’s digital technology expertise and Baker Hughes’ capabilities in oilfield services, offering customers best-in-class physical and digital technology solutions for productivity, the partners said. The complementary product portfolio of GE Oil & Gas and Baker Hughes in drilling, completions, production, and midstream and downstream services will create the second-largest player in the oilfield equipment and services industry.
“This transaction creates an industry leader, one that is positioned to grow in any market,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “Oil and gas customers demand more productive solutions. This can only be achieved through technical innovation and service execution, the hallmarks of GE and Baker Hughes.”
The new company will operate as a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange and will have dual headquarters in Houston and London. GE will have 62.5 percent of financial and voting interest in the new company, and Baker Hughes shareholders will own 37.5 percent. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of 2017.
“The combination of our complementary assets will create a platform capable of seamless integration while we enhance our ability to deliver optimized and integrated solutions and increase touch points with our customers,” said Baker Hughes Chairman and CEO Martin Craighead. “With employees of Baker Hughes and GE Oil & Gas coming together, the new company will be an industry leader, well-positioned to compete in the oil and gas industry while pushing the boundaries of innovation for our customers.”
The combined strengths of GE and Baker Hughes create a stronger diversified portfolio positioned to deliver through the oil and gas cycle, the partners said. Using the GE Store — the internal marketplace for ideas where GE businesses share technology and know-how — Baker Hughes, a GE Company, will bring solutions to local markets at scale around the globe and build its digital framework in the industry with Predix, GE’s operating system for the Industrial Internet. As a truly fullstream company – from resource extraction, to transportation, to end use – Baker Hughes, a GE Company will be able to support a wide customer base, the partners said.
Baker Hughes, a GE Company, will be led by Lorenzo Simonelli as president and CEO. Jeff Immelt will serve as Chairman and Martin Craighead will serve as Vice Chairman of the Baker Hughes, a GE Company, Board of Directors.
“This transformative transaction will create a powerful force in the oil and gas market as we continue to drive long-term value for our customers and shareholders,” Simonelli said. “GE Oil & Gas and Baker Hughes are an exceptional cultural fit, sharing a commitment to exceeding customer expectations. Both companies’ employees will benefit significantly from being part of a larger, stronger company that is positioned for long-term growth. We look forward to combining the digital solutions and technology from the GE store with the domain expertise of Baker Hughes and its culture of innovation in the oilfield services sector.”
The new company is expected to be accretive to GE’s earnings per share by approximately 4 cents by 2018 and 8 cents by 2020. Baker Hughes, a GE Company, is also expected to yield $1.6 billion in synergies by 2020. Baker Hughes shareholders will receive a one-time dividend of $17.50 per share, equivalent to approximately $7.4 billion.
To learn more about Baker Hughes, a GE Company, tune in to the analyst conference webcast replay from October 31, 2016 at either www.ge.com/investor or www.BakerHughes.com.
The transaction is subject to approval by Baker Hughes shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.