Employees making steam turbines at GE Power in Schenectady, New York, recently realized they had an untapped energy resource outside their doorstep: a huge parking lot (see top image). So, in honor of Earth Day, they raised a metal canopy and covered the entire lot with 6,800 solar panels capable of generating 2.3 megawatts. They calculate this solar farm will generate enough power annually to cut electric utility bills at the research campus by 10 percent and save $2.5 million over 25 years. “As solar prices and costs come down, we are able to offer this type of solution to a wider and wider audience,” says Ellen Roybal, senior strategy and marketing leader for solar projects at GE Current.
The Schenectady project will reduce the research center’s annual carbon footprint by 46,000 metric tons of carbon, the equivalent of taking 360 cars off the road. It also will help keep employee cars cool in the summer and keep the snow off of them during the long New York winter (see video below). The project was unveiled as part of Earth Day activities at Schenectady — one of more than 120 EcoWeek events held at GE facilities worldwide.
Top image: GE Power’s historic Building 37 in Schenectady now neighbors a solar parking garage. Image credit: GE Power
In Bangalore, India, hundreds of employees learned how to build a rainwater harvesting system. Water is a critical issue for the arid technology capital, which is located 3,000 feet above sea level and is home to 8.5 million people. The city currently pumps water uphill from locations up to 100 kilometers away, yet nearly half of that water is reportedly wasted.
At GE’s office in Villeurbanne, near the French city of Lyon, two local stores brought a selection of bicycles, electric bikes and scooters for GE employees to try out as alternatives to driving to work.
Back in the U.S., Jeffrey Gati, a senior facility manager at GE Aviation, was among 69 volunteers at Glenwood Park near Cincinnati who planted trees near a butterfly garden, mulched flower beds and restored native plants. GE staff there have volunteered at local parks since 1990.
Programs at other offices included such initiatives as changing office heating and cooling temperatures by one degree to reduce energy consumption, promoting ride-sharing and replacing incandescent lighting with LED bulbs. “People are very proud of where they work and are excited to do something good for the environment,” Roybal says.
Check out many of the activities here.