GE Requests Stimulus Funds for Advanced Batteries – and Green Collar Jobs

GE proposal will create hybrid batteries for tugboats, locomotives, and mining trucks. Photo: © Sascha Burkard - Fotolia.com

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.

Locomotives like this will need the equivalent of a ©iStockphoto.com/cacv12000

With GE's proposal, locomotives like this will get energy-dense hybrid batteries. ©iStockphoto.com/cacv12000

“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.

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Green Jobs + Renewable Energy = A Stronger Nation

“It’s big, it’s bold, it’s green, and while winning it wasn’t pretty or easy, it was well worth the effort,” said Andrew Huff of Environment Iowa, referring to the recently enacted economic recovery package.

On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Then, in an address to a joint session of the Congress on February 25, he told our nation, “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector — jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.”

The American Recovery

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act promises to redraw our energy picture.

The priorities Mr. Obama outlined focus first on energy. “Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years,” he said.

“We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

“But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

President Obama’s budget priorities will include those signed into law in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, so let’s look there for more specifics about what our Congress has promised in the 1,073 page document. How much of the spending will actually go to green jobs, like those Mr. Obama mentioned in Wednesday’s speech? With help from Andrew Huff, BPGL has pulled together the following list of not-to-miss items from the economic recovery bill:

  • $80 billion for clean energy, public transportation and green infrastructure, the largest such investment in our nation’s history.
  • 1.6 million new green jobs, including 135,000 green jobs created by a $4.5 billion investment in greening federal buildings.
  • A 68 million ton reduction in our nation’s carbon footprint, a cut equivalent to a city the size of Chicago, IL going completely carbon-free.
  • Energy renewability and efficiency through research and development of biomass, geothermal, hydrokinetic, hydropower, advanced battery systems and electric vehicles.
  • Thanks in part to 20,000 online petition signatures urging congressional leaders to keep President Obama’s recovery plan clean and green, Congress dropped a controversial $50 billion loan guarantee for the coal and nuclear industries.

Did you know?  The law also includes:

  • River restoration projects as well as habitat restoration on public lands.
  • Watershed infrastructure improvements, including purchase and restoration of floodplain easements.
  • Increased assistance for residential and business renewable energy and energy conservation projects.
  • Weatherization assistance programs for government buildings, private homes and business.
  • Modernization of the nation’s electrical grid to conserve energy and accommodate new energy technologies.

This represents an enormous down payment on a new energy future for America.  Now it is the task of the Obama administration, the various governmental agencies who will be implementing some of the projects, the major recipients of the green dollars, and the public (you and me) to pay attention and provide feedback to our governmental leaders as we witness these projects unfold.  Transparency only works if people are watching.

Miriam Kashia

International Editor/Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)