Thailand’s star has been on the rise for quite some time. Within the span of a single generation, social and economic progress has propelled it from a low to upper-middle-income level and the country’s poverty rate has been cut almost in half. But while capital has been pouring in, reliable electricity is still hard to come by.
It’s the same story all over the developing world. Power plants are expensive and take time to build. In a place like Thailand, things get even more complicated—the country’s large cities are separated by long expanses of dense forest dotted by tiny villages.
Thailand has tackled electrification by implementing alternative energy projects and by demanding better energy efficiency, both by consumers and producers. Now, a Thai company called Gulf Energy Development has just announced the next big investment to supply the energy to Bangkok. It has placed an order for six cutting-edge GE gas turbines built especially to produce power in challenging situations.
“There is demand for power everywhere, but there is also demand for environmental responsibility,” says Sherif Mohamed, an engineer with GE Power & Water. “Nowadays, you need power, but you also need higher efficiency, flexibility and reliability in any power generation project.”
The gas turbines, which GE calls LM6000-PF+ (above and below), are highly efficient machines built around technology originally developed for aircraft engines.
The turbines operate with an industry-leading 56 percent efficiency and an burn both gas and liquid fuel. A single unit can pump out up to 58 megawatts of electricity, enough for the equivalent of 50,000 homes. Each unit has a small footprint of around 350 square meters so that it can be installed in places where space is limited.
Just like a jet engine on a runway, the turbines can quickly kick into high gear when power is needed. “For the Gulf Energy Development project, we should be able to reach full power – about 300 megawatts between all six units – from a cold start in 10 minutes,” says Nasser Chraibi, the product line manager at GE Power & Water. “Many places throughout the developing world need this kind of flexibility.”
The turbine’s winning attributes also stem from the fact that the expertise of four different GE businesses. The company calls this approach to innovation the GE Store. New jet engine technologies in the gas turbine come from GE Aviation. The gearbox that connects the turbine to the generator is being developed by GE’s Oil & Gas business. The generator and advanced control software comes out of GE Energy Management.
Ravi Kurmahorita, an executive vice president for Gulf Energy Development said his company would be the first market in the world to get the new power-producing turbine. GE plans to start deliveries next year.