MIT’s Technology Review magazine just published its TR50 list of the 50 most innovative companies in 2012. “The TR50 companies are leaders,” said Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of the magazine. “They are setting the agenda in their markets and prompting other companies to follow them.”
GE is on the TR50 list. The editors recognized GE’s jet engine-powered gas turbines as a “key innovation” for “building flexible and efficient natural-gas power plants.”
The technology makes it easier for utilities to handle electricity generated by intermittent sources of renewable energy like wind and solar power. When wind stops blowing, the turbines can go from cold iron to 50 megawatts in just 10 minutes and make up for the lost electricity.
Engineers call this technology “aeroderivatives” and GE is the largest manufacturer in the world. Nearly 2,300 GE aeroderivatives generate 80,000 megawatts of electricity in 73 countries. They were all made by American workers at GE plants in Cincinnati, Ohio, who build the jet engines, and in Houston, Texas, who assemble the power plants.
GE aeroderivatives business supports 1,700 jobs globally; including more than 1,000 mostly manufacturing and engineering jobs in the U.S. The rest are service and packaging jobs abroad.
How does the technology work? It’s simple. The thrust that normally pushes a plane thunders into a power turbine and spins generator rotors that make electricity. An aeroderivative turbine like the FlexAero LM6000 can power an entire town and generate enough electricity to serve as many as 50,000 homes.
TR50 members are chosen by Technology Review’s editors. They look for public and private companies that “over the last year have demonstrated original and valuable technology, are bringing technology to market at a significant scale, and are clearly influencing their competitors.”
“Spanning energy, transportation, computing, Web and digital media, materials, and biomedicine, the companies on the list are using their inventions to reshape their industries and to transform how we live,” the editors said.