GE team to develop energy-saving technology for generators

SCHENECTADY, NY, Oct. 8, 2001 – General Electric Company has received a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the development of a technology for high-efficiency generators that can lead to millions of dollars in energy savings, reduce emissions and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. utilities in growing global markets.

Building on its extensive research into high-temperature superconducting (HTS) materials and generators, GE has proposed a 3.5-year program to move this technology toward full commercialization. To be conducted by a GE-led team of industrial partners, utilities and national laboratories, the program is expected to produce major improvements in the efficiency and reactive power capability of new generators, as well as the capability to retrofit the new technology into existing generators.

Much of the development of this new technology will be conducted by GE’s Corporate Research and Development (CR&D), headquartered in Niskayuna, NY, and GE Power Systems in Schenectady, NY. “This program is another example of the leadership GE can provide, both in the development of new technology and in the delivery of that technology into the commercial marketplace,” said Scott Donnelly, Senior Vice President of GE CR&D.

He added that GE’s continuing ability to secure federal funding for projects like the HTS effort “has a positive impact on the region, in that it fosters high technology development in New York State.”

While retaining the stator design that is today’s industry standard, the proposed generator will introduce a new rotor design and HTS winding unprecedented in its simplicity. Recent progress made by HTS wire manufacturers has helped pave the way for the development of an HTS generator with the potential for competitive cost, high reliability, rapid market introduction and a high probability of acceptance by the power industry.

“We believe the timing is right for the introduction of HTS technology into power generation equipment, and that we are presented with a unique opportunity to accomplish this technology milestone in the U.S,” said Jon Ebacher, Vice President of Power Generation Technology for GE Power Systems.

Concept designs indicate that new superconducting generators can achieve significant efficiency gains that translate into life cycle energy savings of approximately $500 thousand over the life of a 100 megavolt-ampere (MVA) generator, and up to $10 million for a 1200 MVA unit. This dramatic reduction in generator losses will increase overall power plant energy efficiency, creating the potential for annual energy savings of several billion kilowatt hours while also to significant annual reductions of CO2 emissions.

The proposed program will include the production and testing of a 1.5 MVA proof-of-concept model for the rotor, cryorefrigeration and HTS subsystems. Those results will be scaled to a 100 MVA prototype generator that will be fully tested under load.

The Global Technology Race

“Research activities on this new technology in Europe and Japan are nurtured by government funding,” said Ebacher. “We anticipate that through our proposed program, our U.S. industrial partners and utilities will establish technological leadership and a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Government funding is critical to execute this program, to minimize the risks associated with introducing the HTS technology into the power generation industry, to accomplish the full program benefits within a short time, and to allow the U.S. industrial partners to be the first to market with such a revolutionary product.”

An advisory council will be formed to provide an interactive forum with the DOE, utility users and national laboratories to ensure the successful commercial launch of the new technology. Utilities will play a vital role in the technology development through their active participation in the advisory council and their cooperation during the extended field testing of the first prototypes.

The Project Team

GE has enlisted the support of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for additional funding for this project. The National Energy Group (a subsidiary of Pacific Gas and Electric) and American Electric Power will participate in site integration studies and perform an economic benefits analysis.

“DOE’s grant announcement is good news for General Electric as well as the Capital District,” said NYSERDA President William M. Flynn. “High temperature superconducting technologies have the potential to save large amounts of energy and reduce the environmental impacts of energy production by eliminating conductive losses. This is the type of effort that New York State should support in order to improve the State’s economy while protecting our environment.”

In addition to the GE CR&D Center and GE Power Systems, the GE development team will include GE Industrial Systems and GE Medical Systems. American Superconductor will be the primary HTS wire supplier. Advanced refrigeration components will be developed in cooperation with Sumitomo Heavy Industries and Praxair. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory will conduct special studies as part of the development program.

About GE Power Systems

GE Power Systems ( is one of the world’s suppliers of power generation technology, energy services and management systems, with 2000 revenue of $15 billion. The business has the largest installed base of power generation equipment in the global energy industry. GE Power Systems provides equipment, service and management solutions across the power generation, oil and gas, distributed power and energy rental industries.

About GE Corporate Research & Development

GE Corporate Research and Development is one of the world’s most diverse industrial laboratories, and the cornerstone of GE’s commitment to technical leadership. At GE CR&D, over 2,000 people, including 1,500 scientists, engineers, and technicians, work to provide GE’s businesses and strategic partners with technological innovations for their future-generation products, processes, and services.

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