General Electric Looks At Renewable Energy As Growth Opportunity

The energy industry is undergoing a huge transformation around the world, and the 125-year-old company General Electric (GE) is looking at renewable energy as a growth opportunity.

“Renewable energy is taking center stage in an energy market movement that is simultaneously global and local,” said Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer of GE Renewable Energy.

She spoke about GE’s clean energy perspectives during an August 7 talk at the California Energy Commission.

“Two-thirds of the world’s power comes through our equipment,” Merfeld said.

She said that market dominance and the company’s long history is both good and bad.

“The good news is we have a lot of knowledge about how the system works and how it could work better,” said Merfeld. “The bad news is we have a lot of inertia that’s stuck in the past.”

GE will have to change to be able to step fully into the clean energy age. Much of the company’s growth in the renewable energy realm stems from its international market ventures, whose challenges including working with governments, technology barriers, and corruption, she said.

GE’s wind turbines are manufactured across the world, where its turbine blades may be built in Denmark or an assembly plant in Barcelona,” Merfeld said.

Offshore wind offers the greatest opportunities for economic growth. Wind also brings engineering challenges, such as the evolution of floating wind turbine technology to be used off deep coastlines. GE is looking to use larger wind turbines with bigger rotors and blades – with some blades capable of spinning at the speed of a 747 jumbo jet engine at takeoff, she said.

“When you start getting to the limits of what mechanics can do, you rely more and more on controls,” Merfeld said.

Among the solutions the company developed was using tiny robots to service and maintenance the structures, reducing the need for expensive on-site maintenance at remote sites.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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