GE bringing giant turbines to U.S. market

CALIFORNIA - General Electric won a $1.4 billion contract to supply wind turbines to a 845 megawatt wind farm planned for Oregon in a deal that will allow GE to bring one of its premier products to the U.S. amid growing competition in wind.

The Sheperds Flat wind project will be based around the 2.5xl wind turbine from GE. The turbine – which can produce 2.5 megawatts of power, has been a hit in Europe and Asia and this will mark its U.S. debut. The 2.5xl is a step up from the 1.5 megawatt turbine GE has marketed for the last several years. The 1.5 megawatt turbine is the world's most popular turbine with more than 12,000 installed.

The turbines will be installed in 2011 and 2012. If Sheperds Flat were operational today, it would be the largest single wind farm in the world, according to GE. As is, it is on track to become the largest in the U.S. Caithness Energy is developing the project. In all, the project will cost $2 billion and employ 400 during construction and 35 people when it is up and running. Caithness will sell the energy to Southern California Edison. The plant will feature a total of 338 turbines.

There aren't as many startups in wind as in solar, but for good reason. Wind turbines are massive and massively complex devices. Still, wind represents a larger market. New renewables (biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, nonexistent wave) accounted for 3.6 percent of U.S. power in August, according to the Department of Energy in November. Still, wind accounted for 43.9 megawatt hours of the 89.7 megawatt hours produced by new renewables through August. Solar came to only 590 megawatt hours. In Europe, wind is tough to miss. Copenhagen's harbor is lined with turbines.

The Department of Energy estimated last year that wind could account for 20 percent of U.S. power by 2030.

Nine of the nations that border the North Sea announced plans to study the idea of a super grid that would bring power from the coasts of Scotland and other nations to the continent. Siemens also said it wants to be number three in wind.

Rival GE and Vestas are locked in a battled over the top spot.

GE got into wind when it bought Enron's wind group. Remember those guys?


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