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Big Wind: GE’s Wind Business is Growing with Gusto

published: 2012-10-19 14:46

How big is a large wind turbine? When fully assembled,GE’s largest land-based wind turbine stands a third of the height of the Eiffel Tower. Its glass fiber composite blades stretch out more than 50 yards and sweep an area larger that a football field. It generates enough electricity at full power to supply 1,900 U.S. homes.

GE has installed 1,000 of these 2.5 megawatt turbines in 19 countries around the world since the first one shipped in 2005. (The most recent one started spinning this week in Romania.) The tally includes 338 turbines for America’s second largest wind farm, the Shepherds Flat project in Oregon. That farm, which spreads across 30 square miles of fields, hills and valleys south of the Columbia River, launched last month. The turbines, which are part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, will produce 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, enough to supply 235,000 households, and eliminate nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 260,000 cars off the road. Some 400 workers spent two years building the farm and 45 employees will run it.

GE is the leading wind turbine manufacturer in the growing U.S. market, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). AWEA said that U.S. wind turbines can now generate 50,000 megawatts of electricity, the same amount as 11 nuclear power plants or 44 coal-fired plants. Wind energy now powers the equivalent of nearly 13 million American homes. States like South Dakota and Iowa draw 20 percent of their electricity from wind.

GE has spent $2 billion on renewable energy innovation over the last decade, and last year the wind business received 152 clean energy patents. There’s more to come. For example, engineers at GE Global Research are looking at superconducting MRI magnets from GE’s healthcare imaging machines to develop turbines that have nearly twice the power capacity as the largest models today.

Says Vic Abate, vice president for renewable energy at GE: “We will continue to work with our customers as we invest in the next generation of wind turbine technology to power the world into the future.”

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