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The GE BRIEF — January 16, 2020

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January 16, 2020




Ten years ago, an earthquake struck near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people and leaving more than 1.5 million homeless. Relief organizations and medical providers sprang into action — including Health Equity International, located in a rural area some three hours from the capital. The organization’s president and CEO, Conor Shapiro, was just two weeks into a new job at HEI when disaster hit. “The amount of collective national trauma is really hard to quantify,” he said. But in the last decade, Shapiro’s organization and others have worked not just to repair the traumas of the past but to help Haitians build a stronger, healthier future. The GE Foundation has been right there with them.

Lending a hand: In the aftermath of the quake, GE focused its resources where they were needed most, funding the Red Cross and providing water, power and healthcare equipment. GE’s relationship with HEI began in 2014, when the company donated technology for a new maternal and newborn health center. In the years since, the partnership has only strengthened. “I was truly wowed by the work they were doing,” said David Barash, executive director of the GE Foundation and an emergency physician himself. “It was clear from the start, and when I first visited, that our investment was thoughtfully deployed and very carefully stewarded.” Today the HEI sees 500 patients a day, delivers more than 500 babies a month and has treated more than 1,000 earthquake survivors with spinal cord injuries.

Learn more here about the good work HEI is doing — and the GE Foundation is supporting — in Haiti.



Renewables may be the talk of the energy world today, but back in the 1920s, the synchronous condenser was all the rage: “an absolute necessity,” one reviewer raved. Back then, utilities were seeking to keep the electrical grid “in phase” — basically, with voltage and current as close as possible to being in sync, ensuring the efficient flow of power. Injecting “reactive power” into the grid, the synchronous condenser helped achieve that stability, preventing surges and brownouts as utilities transmitted power from generating plants to faraway customers. GE supplied the first one a century ago to a hydro facility at Niagara Falls. Today its engineers still rely on a version of the technology, for similar — but distinctly 21st-century — aims.

That synching feeling: Utilities aren’t just transmitting power from big power plants outside cities anymore. Increasingly, they’re drawing it from solar farms and offshore wind installations far from the population centers that use it, and they need an efficient delivery system that reduces disturbances. Enter the synchronous condenser — updated with digital controls, unheard of a century ago, enabling it to dispatch that reactive power in an instant. Recently in the Journal of Electrical Engineering, researchers echoed that enthusiastic 1920 reviewer, assessing the synchronous condenser as a promising means to ensure the smooth functioning of the renewables-based electrical grid.

There’s a lot of history behind this fascinating piece of grid gear. GE Reports has condensed it for you here.



What does the future look like? In 1964 and 1965, anybody with that question on their mind could find answers — or at least some speculation — at the New York World’s Fair, which drew some 50 million people to Queens. One was the science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who was particularly taken with what GE was offering: At the fair, Asimov wrote, “the direction in which man is traveling is viewed with buoyant hope, nowhere more so than at the General Electric pavilion.” Not every futuristic dream comes true, of course, but one piece of that GE vision lives on. It lives, in fact, at Disney World. And it just celebrated a birthday.

It’s a small world, rotating counterclockwise: For the World’s Fair, GE created its Progressland pavilion in collaboration with Disney. After the fair ended, the pavilion moved to Disneyland, where it gained a new name: the Carousel of Progress. Eventually the attraction ended up at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Guests who visit today, 45 years later, experience the carousel as a theater that rotates around them as they sit stationary, taking in scenes of the 20th century. “Yeah, it’s a little corny, and everyone has an idea of how they would update it,” writes Dewayne Bevil, who covers theme parks (yes, really!) for the Orlando Sentinel, in a birthday appreciation. “But it’s OUR corny, semi-outdated attraction. There are no other Disney parks with Carousels of Progress.”

Happy birthday to a legend. Read more about it here.



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“Ten years after the earthquake, there’s going to be a lot of difficult stories — projects that didn’t work out, hopes and plans that didn’t come to fruition. The healthcare we provide, and this hospital, is really a direct contrast to that. This team brings a ‘never give up’ attitude.”

Conor Shapiro, president and CEO of Health Equity International


Quote: GE Reports. Image: Health Equity International.


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