An article from Fortune magazine via the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, gives a comprehensive review of General Electrics activities in the energy market. In perhaps the broadest and largest corporate effort anywhere, GE spent $700 million in 2004 on clean-energy R&D--ranging from hydrogen production to solar cells, cleaner coal plants, and biofuels. Their wide variety of activities include:
- Their very successful wind turbine business has sold 5,500 turbines since 2002, with 1,600 to be installed this year. They hope wind power will eventually supply 20% of U.S.'s total energy.
- They are developing hybrid electric locomotives that they have running on an eight mile long test track, which they will start selling in 2007.
- They have many hydrogen related projects including solid oxide fuel cells for stationary applications, ICE engines modified to run on hydrogen, gas stations that use electrolysis to generate hydrogen, methods of storing hydrogen in man-made nanoparticles or in metal hydrides and thermochemical methods of producing hydrogen.
- GE has been building new high temperature nuclear reactors in Europe and Asia.
- They have teamed with Exxon Mobil and Schlumberger to study how to sequester carbon dioxide.
- They are developing IGCC technology for producing electricity and hydrogen.
- GE is pursuing three ways of using solar cells: developing more efficient solar cells, developing electrochemical cells that produce hydrogen, reducing the size of thermal solar farms from hundreds of acres to tens of acres by improving concentrating solar system efficiency. An example of their research in solar is the development of nanodiodes--whiskers 1/80,000th the thickness of a human hair--displaying a photovoltaic effect that converts sunlight into electricity.
John K. Reinker, who runs a team of about 60 scientists on hydrogen related subjects, is excited about the sheer scope of GE's energy R&D. "I don't think there is any other company in the world that is looking at so many energy technologies and as a result is able to understand which have the most probability of success." Thomas Edison, GE's original research scientist, would be proud.