Follow the latest news about GE’s ecomagination technologies, including everything from smart grid optimization, to water conservation, nanofiltration, portable desalination and turbofan engine design.
Ecomagination in the News
On the Hunt for Energy Savings
Ariel Schwartz of Fast Company reports on the launch of GE’s ecomagination Treasure Hunt program, a collaborative effort with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) aimed at helping businesses, universities, hospitals and cities reduce energy waste and save money.
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Ecomagination in the News
$200 Million Challenge
The Huffington Post reported on GE’s launch of a $200 million call to action for businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges — building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.
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Ecomagination in the News
Mark Vachon at Innovation Forum
In an interview with GreenBiz.com, ecomagination Vice President Mark Vachon offered a ”sneak peek“ of what’s in store for attendees of the upcoming Innovation Forum 2011. Vachon hopes to promote the idea that what’s good for the environment is also good for business.
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Glittering lighting makeover for Tower Bridge readies London's world-famous icon for historic year 2012
Wed May 30 2012
The latest stories from the GE Reports network.
Talking Trash: One Man’s Garbage, Another Man’s Megawatts
Parts of continental Europe can’t get enough of it. Norwegians are begging their neighbors for more. They’ve even considered shipping it from the U.S.
What they want is garbage, simple household trash and solid town waste. From Sweden to Spain, innovative power producers have learned to make electricity from waste. The movement is now spreading west and picking up steam in the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Green Waste Energy (GWE), for example, will soon hitch its innovative waste-to-gas technology to powerful GE gas engines from the Jenbacher family. They will power a new electricity plant in Theddingworth in central England and similar projects may soon move ahead in other parts of the world.
Got Garbage?: GE and Green Waste Energy developed technology that turns household trash into electricity.
GWE calls the garbage-gulping technology Advanced Recycling and Energy Conversion. One plant can take 1,000 tons of household trash per day, about 8 percent of what New Yorkers generate daily, and turn it into 600 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power 24,000 U.S. homes.
Unlike the European incinerators, however, GWE’s technology does not burn the garbage. James Burchetta, the CEO and founder of GWE, says that the process starts with the unsorted, or “black bag,” garbage being fed into a pressure cooker called an autoclave in batches of 29 tons. Workers sort out the recyclables and turn the remaining cellulose-based feedstock into synthetic gas, or syngas, through a process called pyrolysis. “We not only meet the UK and EU [environmental] standards, we eat them for lunch,” Burchetta says.
Syngas has high energy content and burns efficiently in the sturdy Jenbacher J620 engines. “GE gas engines are known worldwide as the leaders in syngas engines,” says Richard Bingham, the chief technology officer of Prestige Thermal Equipment, which developed the garbage-gasification process and licenses the technology through a joint venture with GWE. “We’re not going to take our technology that we’re proud of and put it at risk by using it with another engine.”
GWE is now in talks to build similar facilities around the world. “The world is looking for an advanced thermal conversion technology,” Burchetta says.
Here’s to making garbage a hot commodity.
Wed May 22 2013
He Does the Loco Motion: Ajith Kumar Just Keeps Reinventing Trains
If you invent technology for trains, you spend a lot of time on test tracks waiting for something to happen. And so it was, about five years ago, that Ajith Kumar found himself pondering a problem: how could he partially lift the multi-ton middle axle of a diesel-electric locomotive and give it better pulling power on a wet track?
GE Transportation’s Super Tugger tows an assembled truck of an Evolution Series locomotive. Kumar holds 200 patents, including patents covering axles in such trucks.
Invetor Ajith Kumar atop a GE Evolution Series locomotive.
Then a train came into view and started braking. Standing amid the screeching and noise, Kumar saw up close how a compressed air cylinder applied the friction brakes. “I thought, if you can use it to apply that kind of force on the wheel, surely it could lift the axle,” Kumar recalled.
Armed with this insight, Kumar, a GE consulting engineer, went into his office and filed a patent, which is something that happens to him a lot. In the 36 years he has worked at GE Transportation in Erie, he’s had 200 other Eureka moments – big and small, in his car and at the supermarket – that led to patents. (“I don’t know where it comes from,” he laughs. “But it’s not generally at work.) He lags behind Thomas Edison’s 1,093 U.S. patents but the number puts him on par with the GE’s most prolific modern innovators.
Many of Kumar’s patents are individual but others are shared with colleagues. “Just an idea won’t do the job. You have to have people work on it, too,” Kumar said. “You have to have the implementation and that involves a lot of teamwork.”
Kumar’s drive to improve train technology was a surprise career choice. He joined GE in 1977 from Stanford University, where he studied digital controls. He soon filed his first patent for reducing the current on a transmission line but getting the same amount of power. “The first few are exciting,” he said of his patents.
Some of his greatest achievements came in pursuit of technology that hasn’t yet materialized. Take the hybrid locomotive, which would combine a diesel engine with batteries that capture waste energy from braking – a sort of Prius on rails. “A braking locomotive puts out a lot of kilowatts. Almost a small town could use that,” Kumar said.
Storing that power requires batteries that last 20 years, add only a bit of cost to the vehicle, survive intense vibration and endure temperatures greater than the boiling point of water. Kumar had an idea.
Kumar and his team always start by reviewing and experimenting with existing technology, then seeing what else they can do. Eventually the team hit on metal halides, a material that would be solid and inactive at room temperature but, when melted, becomes a battery. The technology has evolved to become the Durathon battery, which stores as much energy as other battery chemistries but takes up far less space. The Durathon does not yet serve on locomotives, but telecoms use it for backup power and wind farms store excess energy in the batteries.
Another innovation that grew out of the hybrid locomotive project was the Trip Optimizer, a software and big data system that tells a locomotive when to brake and apply power in anticipation of hills and curves in the track. The platform helps trains improve efficiency and save large quantities of fuel. It was another idea that took an unexpected turn and yielded great things.
“We don’t have a hybrid locomotive today but we have two new products, Trip Optimizer and the battery, which hundreds of people work on. So you have no idea where it’s going to go.”
Fri May 10 2013
There Is an App For That: GE Links Apps, Battery, Turbine to Sell Wind Power to Order
Is a blustery day a boon for a wind farm or too much of a good thing? It depends, says Keith Longtin, general manager for wind products at GE’s renewable energy business. “The grid can’t always accept wind power as fast as it comes up,” Longtin says. “When it’s gusting, turbines turn their blades out of the wind and let some of the power pass through. That revenue is gone with the wind.”
But Longtin and his team came up with a solution. They built the world’s first “intelligent” wind turbine with an integrated battery that can store excess power and release it when the wind dies down. The turbine, which is connected to the Industrial Internet, is loaded with sensors and powerful software. They gather and analyze turbine, weather, and grid data and forecast how much electricity the turbine will produce over the next hour.
“This is predictable power,” Longtin says. “We are using advanced forecasting algorithms and a small amount of battery storage to meet a forecast of how much power we will be able to deliver for the next 15 minutes to one hour.”
The software package links the turbines to the Industrial Internet, a network connecting people, data and machines. The software comes with three key applications. They allow wind farm operators like Invenergy, the first customer using the new technology, to capture lost energy, make wind power output predictable, and help keep power pulsing through the grid at the same frequency. (This is important when several power plants are adding power to the grid at the same time.) “Utilities use gas turbines and other conventional generators to do this,” says Justin Sabrsula, an associate in GE’s renewable energy leadership program. “But the new wind farm system and sophisticated algorithms can now manage the same. It’s a revenue stream that wind customers can now capture.”
Invenergy, America’s largest independent wind power generation company, will deploy the first three GE 2.5-120 turbines equipped with the technology. (The numbers stand for 2.5 megawatts in output and 120 meters – the size of the London Eye – in rotor diameter), at the Goldthwaite Wind Energy farm in central Texas. Even without the battery, sensors and data already make this turbine 25 percent more efficient and 15 percent more productive than comparable GE models. Michael Polsky, Invenergy president and CEO, said that he picked the new system because innovation was “critical to our continued industry leadership.”
GE’s Longtin says that “wind power plays an increasingly important role in America’s energy mix.” He says that the “new marriage of battery storage and advanced software within a wind turbine allows forward-thinking wind energy producers like Invenergy to shift wind in its favor.”
Click to enlarge.
Wed May 01 2013