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PRESS RELEASE

GE: Flexible Plants for More Renewable Intensive Grids

GE Combining AI and Hardware to Enhance Coal Plant flexibility enabling More Renewable Intensive Grids
  • Awarded >$7.6 MM from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for three projects to drive higher plant efficiencies and greater operational flexibility to support more renewable intensive grids
  • Two of the projects involve developing an AI learning system and other digital solutions to improve coal plant reliability and enable plants to adjust loads more rapidly to balance the intermittency of renewable sources  
  • A third project will demonstrate advanced plasma ignition technology to enable faster load adjustments in operations

NISKAYUNA, NY – June 26, 2019 – Teams of engineers at GE Research and GE Steam Power have been awarded three projects totaling just over $7.6 million through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Transformative Power Generation Program and Crosscutting Research program to improve the efficiency, reliability and flexibility of coal power to balance grids with an increasing renewable energy mix. 

With 40% of the world’s electricity and 30% of electricity in the United States produced from coal, it remains a large and important part of our energy landscape. This large installed base delivers reliable and stable electricity which can be improved in ways that reduce local and global emissions, including greenhouse gases. With the rapid growth of renewable resources and changing realities of the power market, coal can play an important role as a stabilizing force on the grid.  GE engineers believe the deeper integration of AI  and new digital capabilities combined with advanced hardware solution will deliver greater operational flexibility for coal plants to meet this challenge.

“These projects represent an incredible opportunity for our teams to advance technologies that can help coal plants across the U.S. and beyond operate with cleaner, higher performance and support the ongoing growth of renewable power,” said Dave Begley, General Manager for GE Steam Power in the Americas. “We’re appreciative to the DOE for providing the funding to move these projects forward, and excited about the possibilities that can come from blending the power of hardware and software innovations in coal plant operations.”   

The two projects involving the development of AI and digital technologies will be led by teams of engineers at GE Research in Niskayuna, NY. They are:

AI Learning System for Coal-Fired Power Plant Fault Detection and Diagnosis — GE Research scientists and engineers will use historical data to model a normal operating plant and train the system to recognize and provide an early detection and root cause analysis to operators if the physical plant operations fall outside of the normal operating parameters. The idea is for faults to be detected and fixed early to mitigate any potential disruptions and improve the overall reliability of plant operations.

“We will be employing AI, advanced controls and other digital capabilities to enable coal plants to more quickly change its load profile to balance fluctuations with intermittent renewable energy generation,” said Mustafa Dokucu, a Senior Scientist leading the Model-based Estimation and Predictive Controls project using digital twins. “By transforming coal into a more flexible power source, it will help firm up grids with a more renewable intensive energy mix.”

DOE Funding: $1,999,853

Model-based estimation and predictive controls with Digital Twins to improve flexibility, reliability and efficiency of Coal plants— Drawing from an extensive model library of coal plant components, GE engineers will create digital twins, or digital replicas of these components to estimate and then optimize the heat rate of plant operations for improved efficiency. Each point of efficiency gains translates into 2% of CO2 emission reduction.  For context, GE’s digital twins are continuously learning models that update as new data is collected and analyzed from sensors on the asset or components themselves; from fleet data of other similar components; from human experts; and from simulations that examine “what if” scenarios. 

In addition to improving efficiency, GE digital twins of coal plant components will be utilized to optimize efficiency and deliver 30% faster ramp rates to more capably handle the intermittency of renewables. Finally, the Twins will be used to determine the health of these components for improved reliability.

Feng Xue, a Senior Scientist leading the AI Learning System project added, “As we build in more flexibility, we also will use AI to improve the reliability of coal plants themselves. The AI learning system we’re creating will be trained to detect faults and identify their causes before they lead to any issues.”

DOE Funding: $1,999,060

The project involving new system development for the boiler will be led by the GE Steam Power team in Windsor:

Plasma Ignition and Combustion Stabilization Technology to Improve Flexible Operation, Reliability and Economics of An Existing Coal-Fired Boiler A third project will be led by GE Steam Power business in Windsor, Connecticut, and focus on the development of advanced plasma technology to improve coal power plant flexibility by enabling low load operation, cold starts and faster ramp up time while lowering operating costs. .  The goal of this project is to fully integrated and demonstrate the technology in a field proven system, so it could then be made commercially available for other coal-fired power plants.

DOE Funding: $3,615,340

About GE Steam Power:

GE Steam Power is an industry leader in cleaner power generation, supporting customers with everything from full turnkey plants and upgrades to core operations and maintenance of their coal and nuclear power plants. As today’s #1 steam franchise with more than 30% of the world’s steam turbine capacity, 50% of the world's steam turbines for nuclear power plants and 30% of the world’s boilers, GE Steam Power is delivering solutions that ensure a productive future for coal and nuclear power plants around the world.

“These projects represent an incredible opportunity for our teams to advance technologies that can help coal plants across the U.S. and beyond operate with cleaner, higher performance and support the ongoing growth of renewable power. We’re appreciative to the DOE for providing the funding to move these projects forward, and excited about the possibilities that can come from blending the power of hardware and software innovations in coal plant operations.”    - Dave Begley, General Manager for GE Steam Power in the Americas
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