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Spotlight | May 2014

GE Renewable Energy: The wind in its sails

'The answer is blowing in the wind', so sang the great bard Bob Dylan. GE Renewable Energy, part of GE Power & Water and unit of the multi-billion GE Corp, seems to have wholeheartedly adopted this line as it goes about consolidating its presence in the wind energy space in India.

GE Power & Water has been providing its Indian customers with a broad array of power generation, energy delivery and water process technologies. GE Power & Water has a presence in renewable resources such as wind and solar; biogas and alternative fuels; and coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. The business has also been involved in advanced technologies for improving water availability and quality. GE Power & Water's six business units include Distributed Power, Nuclear Energy, Power Generation Products, Power Generation Services, Renewable Energy and Water & Process Technologies. Headquartered in Schenectady, NY, Power & Water is GE's largest industrial business.

Parent GE has had a presence in India since 1902, with around 15,000 employees, with interests in energy, healthcare, infrastructure and financial services.

For the past few years, GE has been looking at India as a technology and innovation centre and not just as a low-cost manufacturing hub. Power Today queried Mahesh Palashikar, CEO - GE Renewables, India, on the initiatives that GE Renewable Energy has undertaken to capitalise on the opportunities that India has to offer.

"India is rapidly increasing its power generation using renewable energy. Renewables now constitute over 5 per cent of India's energy mix by production and 12 per cent by installed capacity. As India increasingly turns to clean energy to power its growing economy, GE is positioned to provide world-class wind turbines that are designed, tested and manufactured locally," says Palashikar.

The company's latest offering, the wind turbine 1.7-103, is an advanced technology turbine specifically developed for the low speed wind conditions prevailing in India.

Says Palashikar, : "The launch of our new wind turbine 1.7-103 is a testament to GE's commitment to energising India and catering to India's low wind speed environment. GE is known for its local innovation and this is GE's first offering of a localised wind turbine to India. Given that India is a low-wind speed regime, GE manufactures turbines that are unique and suit the wind density speeds here. GE's 1.7-103 wind turbine is specially designed and developed to suit the low speed Indian conditions. Equipped with best-in class capacity factor for India, availability and reliability, the 1.7-103 can generate the power required to fulfil the annual energy needs of 7,000 homes in India."

Banmali Agrawala, President & CEO, GE South Asia said during the launch, "The launch of our new wind turbine 1.7-103 once again is a testament to GE's commitment to energising India and catering to India's low wind speed environment. Our latest offering underscores the company's effort to provide localised solutions to India. As GE's latest wind turbine for India's low-wind speed, the 1.7-103 offers performance and reliability that exceeds industry standards. With the 1.7-103, GE has invested in powering India in a cleaner way."

In fact, GE seems quite bullish on the prospects of renewable energy in India. Its financial services arm, GE Energy Financial Services, has made its first foray into an Indian solar project, with an investment of $24 million into Welspun Renewable Energy's 151 MW solar photovoltaic plant in Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh.

According to Raghuveer Kurada, business leader for India and South East Asia at GE Energy Financial Services, "With its geography, strong economic growth and commitment from the highest levels of government, India has gained incredible potential for the development of solar power."

A Flagship Product

Can one call the 1.7-103 a flagship product for GE Renewable Energy? "GE 1.7-103 wind turbine is an advanced brilliant onshore wind turbine; designed, developed & engineered in India, and it is specially designed for Indian low wind speed conditions. This wind turbine provides a dramatic 24 per cent increase in annual energy production compared to the 1.6-82.5 wind turbine at wind speed of 6.5 m/s. From a power producer perspective, the large rotor of 103 metres of the GE 1.7-103 wind turbine will prove a viable solution as it delivers high-efficiency output at a lower cost. This turbine is designed on GE's evolutionary technology, bringing in best features from GE's 1X and 2X platform. With this GE brings to India a few of the best technologies in its bucket, and (will) localise them for Indian conditions. Localisation content for this turbine is high, and we progressively aim to increase that," says Palashikar.

It has been said that development of advanced battery technologies will prove to be the defining game-changer for the exponential development of renewable energy. GE Renewable Energy has been working on advanced battery storage technologies for its wind turbines.

"GE's Durathon Battery technology is based on an advanced industrial battery design engineered to meet the growing need for safer, reliable and high performance energy storage solutions for a variety of stationary and motive applications. Durathon Battery technology is based on the simple chemistry of sodium and nickel. Providing efficiencies through superior cycle performance, high energy density and increased reliability, the GE Durathon Battery is the basis of a consistent and reliable energy storage system for a variety of stationary and motive applications. Providing value and ingenuity to fields such as Telecommunications, Power Generation, Grid Operation and Energy Management, Durathon Battery's sodium nickel technology will change the way the world sees battery energy storage," says Palashikar.

This development can prove to be a major game-changer for renewable energy, "By storing energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining and discharging at times of high load, renewable operators know they can get full value from their assets by capturing peak pricing opportunities. But that's not the only benefit, Durathon Energy Storage Systems provide a number of other services to renewable operators. For example, it can smoothen the often uneven output from renewable sources to improve power quality and increase ramp-up time to capture value earlier," adds Palashikar.

Going Local

So in its quest to provide local solutions, will GE look at coming up with innovation hubs in India like the recently-launched Global Wind Turbine Repair Innovation Lab in Albany, New York? Palashikar says that GE's solutions for India are localised. "Unlike many other GE regions, (the) India region is highly localised in operation, with the manufacturing plant based in Pune and localised supply chain, this gives the region flexibility to undertake any repair requirement in India."

Quality control becomes a focus area in the supply-chain since GE Renewable Energy has a multi-sourcing strategy for key components. "For GE quality comes first. GE controls quality level, at the outset, by having stringent vendor qualification process. This ensure only vendors with quality control processes in place can get into GE's preferred supplier list. Thereon, dedicated GE SPOCs are empowered and responsible for specific components which are regularly checked for quality at vendor location," says Palashikar.

The Right People

Training, motivating and retaining key professionals are a challenge for HR departments worldwide. In the renewable energy space, with developments happening almost on a daily basis, these HR challenges are multiplied in such a dynamic field. GE has a few incitatives like the GE Renewable Energy Leadership Program to meet these challenges.

"The Renewable Energy Leadership Program accelerates the development of renewable energy-focused talent through a structured program combining coursework, job assignments and interactive seminars. Associates complete three or four position rotations within a two-year period in GE's Renewable Energy platform, which includes wind, solar, fuel cells and the Global Research Center. Associates are given the ability to design their own rotations, with input from the program leader, to lead projects and processes in a variety of functions across the Renewables Business, including Sales, Commercial Operations, Product Line Leadership, Project Management and Logistics, Manufacturing, Sourcing, Parts & Maintenance, Product Service & Warranty, Marketing, Finance, and others," says Palashikar. This ensures that GE Renewable Energy is assured of a steady supply of energy professionals. "Associates participate in a comprehensive leadership development program, including classroom training, mentoring, Six Sigma, networking and exposure, and a structured performance evaluation process. Graduates are well prepared for medium to large-sized leadership positions within the Renewables platform," adds Palashikar.

The India Growth Story

GE seems convinced that the India renewable energy growth story is here to stay.

"India's economy is growing at a rate between 4.5-5 per cent, but its electricity demand has grown at a CAGR of 6 per cent, in the last 3 decades. 84 per cent of the total electricity production is derived from conventional sources. With thermal installed base at 70 per cent of total generation installed base and with rising electricity demand, these fuel sources, along with their rising prices and reduced availability, also have a huge impact on environmental pollution. Renewables are the way forward to meet our burgeoning energy needs in a clean way, and to meet the overall energy deficit of ~8.7 per cent. India is progressively moving towards tapping renewable energy resources. Of the existing renewable sources, Wind is the most prominent. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, wind power accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total installed capacity in the renewable energy sector. At present, India's wind energy potential is about 80,000 MW with only 15,000 MW installed on the ground. Realising the potential of wind energy in India and the challenges that the country offers, GE is working towards localization of its Wind Energy business in India. GE Renewables in India has been on a steady growth path, with more than 350MW installed base of which ~200MW happened in 2013 alone," says Palashikar.

So what is the next great thing coming from GE Renewable Energy as far as solar projects are concerned? "Our strategy involves developing localised products and solutions for India driven by our "In India, For India" approach. We continually strive to meet India's energy needs and partner in its growth and development. India is blessed with ample sunshine and there is a huge potential of leveraging solar in the country. Solar energy is an exciting field and we are looking at different options and scenarios to derive the best way forward for its manifestation in India," says Palashikar.

GE has also announced that it will invest an additional $10 billion for its 'ecomagination' project for development of clean technologies. Will the conglomerate look at India as an incubator for any of these technologies?

"Ecomagination will be deployed wherever we feel there is a need and a strategic fit. Its deployment would be based on value added in a region. India is a strategic market for GE and we will continue to remain invested in the country. With our investment in the upcoming multi-modal plant in Pune, we plan to make India as a manufacturing hub in the future, (this) would mean that India will be the centre for several projects in the future," says Palashikar. "GE Renewables India has a robust order book to continue on its steady growth path in coming years," he concludes.

GE AND THE INDIA STORY

1902 : Set up India’s first hydro-power plant in Karnataka
1969 : Set up nuclear reactors at Tarapore
1982 : GE engines power Indian Airlines and Air India
1986 : Partnership with BHEL for gas turbines
1989 : Joint venture with Wipro: GE Healthcare
1998 : Joint venture with SBI
1999 : Established the John F Welch Technology Center (JFWTC) at Bangalore
2002 : Started IP operations at JFWTC
2003 : Delivered first engine for the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas)
2007 : GE issued 100th patent from JFWTC
2010 : Established wind facility at Pune
2010 : 1.6 x 100 low-wind regime turbine launched
2012 : LiteSpeed programme launched
2013 : Over 2000 patents filed by GE from JFWTC

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