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GE Ecomagination gets put into action

GE Transportation, a business unit of the mighty General Electric Company, has announced plans to build a state of the art manufacturing plant for advanced storage batteries using sodium-metal halide technology. The batteries will be used in hybrid-electric applications such as mining trucks, tugboats, and the company's Evolution series of hybrid locomotives. Other applications include backup storage and load leveling for GE's smart grid concept.

The new production facility is expected to cost $100 million to build and outfit. It will be located in upstate New York in the Capital Region surrounding Albany, and is estimated to create 350 new manufacturing jobs directly. New York State has partnered up with GE in this project by pledging more than $15 million in incentives. GE is also in the process of filing an application with the U.S. Department of Energy for stimulus funding for this project.

The unnamed facility is scheduled to be fully operational by mid-2011. GE expects synergy from GE's nearby Global Research campus in Niskayuna, Schenectady County, also part of New York's Capital Region. The new batteries will rely heavily on new materials, new manufacturing technologies, intelligent controls, and advances in battery chemistry developed at GE Global Research. GE says that it has invested more than $150 million to develop advanced battery technologies, including a high energy-density sodium-based chemistry battery.

“We are very excited about the breakthrough in battery technology and the new production facility,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, President and CEO of GE Transportation. “This leading commercial-grade battery technology is essential in advancing our hybrid development programs and a vital step in the evolution of high-tech and green transportation solutions.”

The new battery business will become a part of GE Transportation, and will be led by Tina Donikowski, General Manager of Propulsion and Specialty Services at GE Transportation. The company thinks that the new battery division has the potential to become a $1 billion business over the next decade. Donikowski currently leads all GE transportation businesses associated with non-renewable and renewable energy including mining, marine, drilling, and wind energy.

“Leading GE’s new battery business is an inspiring opportunity to contribute green technology that can have a significant impact on reducing our dependence on oil and lowering emissions worldwide,” said Donikowski.

GE Transportation first showed off a demonstrator unit of the Evolution Hybrid locomotive in May 2007. It captures the massive amount of energy dissipated during locomotive braking and stores it in a series of sophisticated on-board batteries. The stored energy can then be used to provide locomotive power, cutting fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 10 percent over today’s state-of-the art locomotives. GE’s expects its hybrid locomotives to be commercialized in 2010, with production likely at its Erie, Pennsylvania plant.

The company teamed up with Komatsu and the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate the world’s first hybrid drive system for heavy-haul mining trucks in January 2008. GE and Komatsu America Corporation tested the hybrid propulsion system on a 240-ton mining truck at Komatsu's proving grounds. The hybrid mining truck also captures braking energy and stores it in the batteries providing a fuel savings of up to 10 percent and reduced emissions. Due to the high torque output of electric motors, an instant power boost of up to 20 percent can be called upon to increase speed on grades.

GE Transportation is also researching and developing emissions-reducing hybrid technology for workboats and tugboats. The program is focused on helping to reduce diesel emissions in harbors and ports in densely populated areas such as New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles. According to GE, tugboats are at idle approximately 80 percent of their operating time.

Established more than a hundred years ago, GE Transportation employs over 10,000 people worldwide. It recently announced $1.1 billion in revenues for its first quarter.

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