The International Energy Agency reported last week that global CO2 emissions ballooned by 1 billion metric tons in 2011. But “a substantial shift from coal to gas in the power sector” currently underway is lending the growing greenhouse cloud some silver lining.
GE has been helping customers embrace cleaner power generation for many years and technologies that center on cleaner-burning natural gas are at the heart of that effort. Many of the technological advances are now part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, a $5 billion R&D effort (so far) that looks for solutions to pressing environmental problems that in turn spur economic growth.
This spring, for example, MIT’s technology review magazine put GE on the list of the 50 most innovative companies. The magazine’s editors recognized GE’s jet engine-powered “aeroderivative” turbines as a “key innovation” for “building flexible and efficient natural-gas power plants.” The turbines, which are manufactured in Cincinnati, Ohio, and mostly assembled by GE workers in Houston, Texas, serve in dozens of countries around the world. “Our belief is that through innovation, we can deliver both faster growth and resource efficiency,” says Mark Vachon, GE’s vice president for ecomagination. “We’re committed to keeping the ecomagination portfolio’s revenue growth at more than twice the rest of the company, while further reducing our energy intensity, water use and greenhouse gas footprint.”
Another member of the ecomagination portfolio, GE’s FlexEfficiency* 50 combined cycle power plant, takes advantage of the latest advances in gas combustion technology. GE invested $500 million to develop the plant, which can quickly ramp up and ramp down power output, incorporate electricity from variable sources like solar and wind farms, and deliver a stable supply electricity when it’s needed. When combined with renewables, the plant can reach very high efficiency approaching 70 percent. Customers in France, Turkey, China, and Japan have already signed up for the technology.
Overall, there are nearly 10,000 GE gas turbines installed around the globe. GE’s Greenville, South Carolina, plant is the largest gas turbine manufacturing site in the world. “As the world’s energy demand continues to grow, natural gas will be an increasingly valuable part of the world’s energy mix,” Vachon says.