If the typical power plant were a bakery, most people would go hungry. Imagine that conventional power stations lose as much as two thirds of the heat energy generated by fuel before it leaves the plant as electricity. GE has now turned this equation upside down.
GE’s new “most efficient” and “most flexible” combined cycle power plant can deliver as much as 61 percent of fuel energy into the grid as electricity. The technology can do this even at a low electricity output. Until now, this has been a hard thing to do.
Why also most flexible? Like a faucet, the breakthrough technology can quickly and efficiently scale up or down the amount of electricity it pumps into the grid. This comes handy for utilities drawing renewable power from wind farms and solar plants. When the wind starts blowing, the gas-fired flexible plant, which GE calls FlexEfficiency 60, can pull back within minutes, and the utility can feed the grid with renewable electricity. This way the utility burns less natural gas, saves money, and cuts greenhouse emissions.
Customers in the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Japan have already placed orders valued at $1.2 billion. GE workers in Greenville, South Carolina, at the world’s largest gas turbine manufacturing plant, will soon start building and testing steam and gas turbines and power generators for the new system.
Like its sister technology, the FlexEfficiency 50 (used in Europe, and much of Asia and Africa, where electricity cycles at the 50 hertz frequency – Japan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. use 60 hertz, hence Flex Efficiency 60), the system is part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio. GE estimates that a single FlexEfficiency 60 plant will prevent 2.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off U.S. roads.