Imagine if you could visit one lab, one location, and in just a one- hour window, see the entire energy transition unfolding. GE Research’s campus in Upstate New York is one of the few places where such a view is even possible.
Secretary Granholm was joined by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY20), whose district includes GE’s lab, for a whirlwind tour of the latest technologies GE scientists and engineers are focused on to grow renewables, manage carbon and modernize the grid.
Pictured (left to right): Scott Strazik, Chief Executive Officer, GE Power, U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY20), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jennifer Granholm, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy and Vic Abate, Chief Technology Officer, GE
“Visiting GE Research is like taking a trip into the future and being able to see firsthand what’s coming,” said Vic Abate, GE’s Chief Technology Officer. “We were thrilled to show Secretary Granholm, Senator Gillibrand and Representative Tonko the latest technologies we are developing and deploying to support the energy transition. These initiatives span from supporting the growth of offshore wind and decarbonization to modernizing the grid and electrifying flight.”
Like GE’s founder, Thomas Edison, our modern-day GE scientists and engineers are “system-of-system” thinkers and doers. They work on many pieces of the energy innovation puzzle, with a unique awareness on how they all must fit together to work in the right way. We do this by working closely with GE’s energy businesses, whose footprint supports 1/3 of the world’s electricity. And we partner often with the US government and other industry partners to accelerate the key technologies required to address climate change. Currently, we have 61 programs alone with the US. Department of Energy (DOE).
During the Secretary’s visit, GE Research leaders outlined three 1st principles we are following to support the energy transition:
- Growing renewables
- Modernizing the grid
- Managing carbon
Growing Renewables … Offshore Superconducting Generator Demonstration in 2025-26
Dave Torrey, a Senior Principal Engineer in GE Research’s Electric Machines group, and Courtney Leeds, an early career Edison Engineer, provided an update on the $20 million project funded by the DOE to develop the world’s largest offshore wind turbine utilizing superconducting generator technology. The team is applying 40+ years of IP and application experience scaling superconducting magnet technology for GE’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) business to increase wind energy output.
GE’s superconducting generator technology has the potential to dramatically increase the power per unit mass while driving up the efficiency and economies of scale for offshore wind. The team is on track to build and demonstrate a full-scale prototype sometime in the 2025-26 timeframe.
Modernizing the Grid … World’s 1st Large Flexible Transformer Pilot Underway
GE scientists are working on several technologies to modernize the grid, driving important advances in power electronics, controls, and various digital technologies. The Secretary had a chance to meet Ibrahima Ndiaye, a Technology Manager at GE Research, leading a project with the DOE to demonstrate the world’s 1st large flexible transformer. The flexible transformer will support higher penetrations of renewable power on the grid, improve resiliency through better fault management, frequency and voltage regulation and ease the supply chain for utilities by serving as a universal spare for a wide range of transformers operating at different voltage levels. Developed through a project funded by the DOE, this technology is being piloted right now with our utility partner, Cooperative Energy, at one of their substations in Columbia, MS. This advanced technology is poised to replace an aging U.S. transformer fleet, with >70% older than 25- years and ~15% already exceeding the average life expectancy of 40- years.
Managing Carbon … Launch of New CAGE (Climate Action @ GE) Lab at GE Research
GE Research’s Carbon Capture Breakout Technology Leader, Dave Moore, discussed important advancements GE scientists are working on in partnership with the DOE and the energy industry to enable economical, large scale decarbonization in power generation. This work is being led out of the newly created CAGE Lab, which is committed to developing and deploying new solutions to decarbonize the power sector and the atmosphere in general.
Moore highlighted a unique approach the GE Research team is driving in direct air capture (DAC), which is bringing together GE’s special expertise in thermal management, 3D design and innovative materials to remove carbon from the air. This team also is developing a similar approach as part of a $14.3 million project with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to extract water from the air. DARPA is interested in providing a portable clean water solution for troops in the field that they can take with them wherever they go.
Hybrid Electric Flight Demonstrator in mid-2020s
GE Research’s efforts in decarbonization are not limited to the power sector. They extend well into the aviation sector as well, with research teams at the Lab studying ways to accelerate the adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and supporting next generation engine programs like CFM RISE and hybrid electric flight.
Satish Prabhakaran, GE Research’s Hybrid Electric Aviation portfolio leader, showed the Secretary an altitude test chamber in the Hybrid Electric Flight Lab where different components of the electric propulsion system can be tested simulating flight conditions beyond 35,000 ft. Prabhakaran and his team at GE Research will be working closely with GE’s Aviation team as they prepare a hybrid electric flight demonstration in the mid- 2020s timeframe.
“The visit with Secretary Granholm, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko underscored how important and impactful innovation can be when industry and government work together,” Abate added. “GE Research sits at the nexus between our energy businesses and government agencies like the DOE, which allows us not only to accelerate needed innovations but also help drive them to their final destination.”