GE Requests Stimulus Funds for Advanced Batteries – and Green Collar Jobs
General Electric’s proposed $100 million battery manufacturing facility was probably just the kind of project President Obama had in mind when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) passed in February.
If funded, GE’s sodium-battery producing facility will create 350 new green-collar jobs. The facility is to be built at a still-to-be-determined location in upstate New York. These batteries will power hybrid locomotives, mining trucks, and tugboats. They will also provide back-up power for stationary applications like telecom, which needs an uninterrupted power supply.
The manufacturing facility will produce ten million battery cells each year, which would provide enough energy storage for 1000 GE hybrid locomotives.
The company has applied for stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and their submission is under review, according to Todd Alhart from the GE Global Research team. The company expects to hear the results by the end of summer, because the government wants to begin stimulus projects quickly.
We believe this is just the type of proposal envisioned for federal stimulus funding,” Alhart said by phone to Blue Planet Green Living. “GE’s new battery facility will bolster our domestic manufacturing base, create hundreds of green collar jobs and produce a new battery that will go a long way in helping the environment.”
The company has partnered with the state of New York to fund this project. Governor Patterson has pledged $15 million. The remaining $85 million will come from investments and stimulus money combined. The goal is to break ground by late 2009 and be fully operational by mid-2011.
“We have an opportunity to manifest GE’s battery technology across the entire transportation sector,” said Alhart. “We’re manufacturing sodium batteries for hybrid locomotives, but we also want to pair sodium batteries with lithium batteries for a dual system to power smaller vehicles as well.”
According to Glen Merfeld, Manager of GE Chemical Energy Systems Lab, batteries have different spectrums of performance, and different vehicles have different requirements.
“Some vehicles predominately need energy delivered or stored quickly, like the Toyota Prius, which has relatively short acceleration and deceleration times – on the order of seconds,” said Merfeld. “Vehicles with a longer range need a different battery, one that can store large amounts of energy and distribute it over slower time intervals. For the hybrid locomotive, we’re essentially trying to make a 200-ton Toyota Prius, and so the battery needs to be more energy dense.”
Sodium batteries offer more energy storage for a given volume, but are less able to provide bursts of power. With heavy duty vehicle application, power is not as necessary, which makes these batteries ideal for locomotives.
Merfeld also points out that GE locomotives are present in a range of different locations, from Alaska to Florida. The battery needs to be functional in harsh conditions. “Our battery can operate independently from its environment,” said Merfeld. “There is a thermos around it.”
The advanced battery technology GE is producing is not surprising considering its long history in the business. For more than thirty years, the company has been developing energy storage technologies. GE has spent the last five years working on sodium metal halide batteries. The company has also sold locomotives for more than a century.
This technology may be used on passenger cars in the future. “Even Thomas Edison was a big advocate of electric cars as early as the 1920s!” said Merfeld.
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