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GE Innovative Flex Plant to Power National Grid for the First Time
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 15, 2011

File image.

Renewable energy projects such as solar and wind farms have been pumping increasingly more electricity into the grid. For example, data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show that the output of American solar farms grew 16 times over the last decade.

But challenges remain. One of the largest is making sure that customers have enough power when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.

To keep electricity flowing, GE invested $500 million in the development of the innovative FlexEfficiency 50 power plant. The plant can quickly ramp up and ramp down power output and deliver electricity when it is needed.

Yesterday, GE and the large French utility Electricite de France announced that they will jointly develop the first FlexEfficiency power station to be connected to a national grid.

The project will be located at Bouchain in northern France. It will produce 510 megawatts of electricity, enough electricity to power 600,000 households. The plant is scheduled to come on line in late 2015.

The ecomagination-qualified technology also aims to spur a broader rollout of renewable energy projects by giving utilities the flexibility to quickly switch on a drizzly, windless day from solar and wind power generation to gas.

GE's flex technology is radical because it allows the gas turbine to respond to surges and fluctuations in electricity demand in as fast as 30 minutes. That's twice the rate of the current industry benchmarks. This flexibility as well as the plant's 61 percent efficiency will allow EDF to burn less gas and reduce CO2 emissions. When combined with renewables, the plant can reach efficiencies approaching 70 percent.

GE will also roll out the flex technology in Turkey, China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

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