Friday, January 20, 2006

GE Wind Power Business Brings Major Growth and Technology Opportunities

General Electric : GE Wind Power Business Brings Major Growth and Technology Opportunities: "GE Wind Power Business Brings Major Growth and Technology Opportunities

GE Wind Power Business Brings Major Growth and Technology Opportunities
GE has expanded into one of the fastest-growing segments of the global energy industry with the addition of its new wind energy business. Last year, a record 6,500 megawatts of new wind power-generating capacity, enough to provide electricity to roughly 1.5 million homes, were added worldwide. This growth trajectory is expected to continue for some time.

"The wind power industry offers great opportunities for growth and continued technology development," says Steven Zwolinski, President of GE Wind Energy, a new business unit of GE Power Systems. "With today's volatile fuel pricing, increasing environmental concerns and wind energy's cost competitiveness, more and more utilities are adding wind power to their electricity mix."

The 1,400 worldwide GE Wind Energy employees design, manufacture, install and operate commercial-size wind turbines ranging in size from 900 kilowatts to 3.6 megawatts. Since 1980, the company has developed and/or sold more than 5,700 wind turbines totaling 2,700 megawatts of capacity. With manufacturing facilities located in the world's three largest wind markets, Germany, Spain and the U.S., GE Wind Energy is strategically positioned for growth well into the future. GE Wind Energy also manufactures wind turbine blades in the Netherlands, and will soon be delivering blades for the growing U.S. market from its facility in Pensacola, Florida.

Worldwide, wind energy has grown 31% annually over the last five years, resulting in an estimated global installed capacity of 24,000 megawatts. Cumulative industry investment will top $25 billion in 2002. GE expects to see continued strong, double-digit growth in wind power over the next several years, with much of the focus on Europe and the Americas, but, according to Zwolinski, the business also is looking for opportunities to expand wind power technology into other regions including Asia.

Europe contributed nearly two-thirds of the total wind power capacity added globally in 2001, or approximately 4,500 megawatts. In Denmark, Germany and some regions of Spain, 10 to 25% of the total electric power is coming from wind generation.

The U.S. is emerging as a strong wind power market, growing 66% in 2001 with the addition of 1,700 megawatts of new wind-generated power, bringing the total installed capacity to 4,261 megawatts - enough to meet the electricity needs of one million average households. Of this total, GE Wind Energy contributed 25.7% with new installations in Wisconsin, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas - one of the largest U.S. wind markets. Worldwide, GE Wind Energy contributed 865 megawatts during 2001.

In many parts of the world, governments are fueling this growth by providing incentives for the development of more environmentally friendly, renewable energy sources. These subsidies help put the cost of large wind-generated power (one megawatt or more) into a competitive range with other traditional generation sources. In the U.S., wind is projected to provide at least 6% of the nation's electricity by 2020 - an estimated 100,000-megawatt capacity. Europe has set a goal of 60,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity by 2010.

Wind technology has improved significantly over the past two decades, driving up the efficiency of wind generation. Today's aerodynamically designed rotor blade airfoils, more reliable variable-speed generators and more sophisticated power electronics have enabled construction of larger wind plants that generate 120 times more electricity than early 1980s models.

The advanced wind power technology acquired by GE has a proven track record of cost-effective performance in both on-shore and offshore applications. GE 1.5 Megawatt series turbines are among the most widely utilized worldwide with more than 1,000 in operation today. At a height of 330 feet at its tallest point, and a rotor diameter of 231 feet (10% longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747), the 1.5 Megawatt wind turbine is the largest wind turbine manufactured in the United States. The GE 3.6-Megawatt system, currently undergoing prototype testing in Spain, is the industry's highest capacity operating prototype to date.

The continuing development of larger and more efficient wind power systems is expected to make the technology an even more cost-competitive power generation option in the years ahead. The numerous synergies that exist across GE should increase the pace of technology in the wind industry. GE Plastics, Aircraft Engines and Power Systems advanced airfoil technology, GE Transportation Systems technology for gearboxes, GE Industrial and Power Systems advanced generators, power electronics and controls are just a few examples of this.

"GE is committed to wind power technology for the long-term," says Zwolinski. "We are optimistic that the synergies from several of our GE businesses, our Six Sigma Quality processes, our technology portfolios and our global network of professionals can provide the global wind industry with expanded expertise and capabilities - and ultimately, higher value solutions."