GE unit seeks partners for rail, wind

HONG KONG, CHINA - U.S. conglomerate General Electric's technology infrastructure unit is on the prowl for partnerships to boost its rail and wind power gear businesses in China, the unit's China chief executive said.

"We are always looking for partnership opportunities in various configurations in China," Tim Schweikert, president of GE Technology Infrastructure China, said at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.

Cash perks and tax breaks for renewable energy projects have spurred growth in China's wind sector, helping the country to become the world's fourth largest wind power producer.

Both the renewable energy and rail sectors are expected to benefit from China's 4 trillion yuan (US$585.9 billion) economic stimulus package.

Schweikert said the company was also working with potential partners for the application of utility-scale batteries in China.

"We are developing battery technology that we think will have terrific application in China, particularly in the renewable space as China develops its smart grid capability," he said.

U.S. conglomerate General Electric is investing heavily in developing utility-scale batteries that could store large amounts of energy and aid in the efficient distribution of electricity to end-users.

"We think that is going to be a high growth area," said Schweikert.

The company said the technology was still in the development stage, though the plan is to commercialize the battery early 2011.

Capitalizing on growth opportunities in the mainland, the company has established with China's Chongqing XinXing Fengneng Investment a gear-making joint-venture, where GE is taking a minority stake.

Schweikert did not disclose details of the partnership but said the joint-venture targets to make gears for turbines supporting large wind power projects with capacity of 2.5 megawatt to 4 megawatts.

The joint venture will have a capacity to produce up to 2,000 units yearly. The facility, based in Chongqing, China, will start producing gears in the third quarter next year.

"We are always looking at different options relative to partnerships from wholly owned investments such as a facility to partnerships like that with Xinxing," said Schweikert, who cites the gear business as a "significant revenue earner" for GE's China business.

The company chief said GE seeking joint-ventures under plans to localized its operations in China.

"Our intent is to make China our second home," said Schweikert.


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