General Electric (GE) unveiled an advanced turbine technology that it said will allow greater flexibility and efficiency in combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plants.
GE said its latest advance provides the flexibility of quick-start gas-fired peaking technology with the high efficiency of the state-of-the-art combined-cycle power plants. These advantages exist today only in separate plants, but GE claims in now has developed an "unprecedented" combination of both.
"By rapidly ramping up and down in response to fluctuations in wind and solar power, the technology will enable the integration of more renewable resources into the power grid," said a GE spokesperson, who added that the development is the result of more than $500 million in research and development.
GE has developed the technology and trademarked it as "FlexEfficiency 50," which is designed for a 510 MW combined-cycle power plant with a 61% fuel efficiency.
The new level of combined flexibility and efficiency is essential if renewable power is going to be cost-effectively integrated to power grids around the globe, GE said. The company made the announcement in France where it has a manufacturing facility that will produce equipment for the new power plants. The market is worldwide, including the United States where gas-fired generation is getting renewed attention with the shale gas boom and other drivers.
"GE drew from the company's jet engine expertise to engineer a [power] plant that will ramp up at a rate of more than 50 MW/minutes -- twice the rate of today's industrial benchmarks," the spokesperson said.
The FlexEfficiency 50 technology is the first product that GE has rolled out under its initiative to push clean energy technology advances. It follows the company's recent announcements of the world's most efficient wind turbine, the current highest reported efficiency level for thin film solar energy technology, and $11 billion in acquisitions that the industrial giant said will beef up its natural gas and power transmission portfolio.
"Much of today's power generation technology is serving yesterday's power grid," said Steve Bolze, CEO of GE Power & Water. "Institutions and individuals everywhere are looking for cost-effective ways to use solar, wind and gas energy on a large scale, but they too often assume that renewable energy can simply plug in to the existing power grid."
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