Category Archives: Energy

Updates from GE

The Power Of Data: How Software Is Helping Keep Iceland’s Lights On
By Julie Khoo – There are many reasons to visit Iceland. This former Viking stronghold is now the most peaceful country and home to the happiest and most literate people in the world — one in 10 Icelanders on average reportedly has published a book.

A nation of glaciers, volcanoes and waterfalls, Iceland is also, at least metaphorically, one of the greenest places, generating all of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydropower and geothermal energy.

The grid receives electricity from generators that move at a constant frequency, just like the merry-go-round. When a power-hungry load suddenly disconnects from a high-inertia grid with lots of generators, the grid frequency will barely change.

But when a generator or load goes offline in a low-inertia grid like the one in Iceland, Landsnet has to act quickly to return the frequency to its normal level.

This can be a real headache. If the frequency drops or climbs too quickly, it can knock down parts of the grid and cause power failures. It can even cause a geothermal power station to automatically disconnect from the grid to protect the equipment from large stresses. Dramatic changes in frequency can also create “electrical islands” as different areas on the grid react to the changes. This can lead to blackouts. more>

GE’s Immelt bets big on digital factories, shareholders are wary

By Alwyn Scott – The $4 billion GE has spent on developing digital products – ranging from tiny sensors in jet engines to augmented reality and software that can crunch large volumes of data – is on the scale of investments Google and Facebook Inc (FB.N) made to build their businesses, Bill Ruh, CEO of GE’s digital division, told Reuters.

Now that GE has shed non-essential operations, including most of its large financial unit, its fortunes will rise or fall depending on whether that investment delivers.

GE’s technology – and similar systems by IBM, Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE) and others – is a hot new battleground in manufacturing.

The companies promise they can spot problems before machines break down, yield cost savings of 30 percent or more, and raise labor productivity that has slowed sharply in recent years.

The company has spent $5 billion setting up new U.S. factories in the last five years. As it now adds digital technology to its plants, it needs fewer, and higher skilled, workers than in the past.

“We’re going to have a smarter worker,” Jeff Immelt said in an interview. “We’re not going to have as many workers.” more>

Updates from GE

Dam Powerful: These Engineers Are Connecting Hydropower To The Internet
By Tomas Kellner – There are many large waterways in North America. Then there’s the Saint Lawrence River, whose lumbering current links the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Montreal, Quebec’s business capital with 1.7 million inhabitants, fits on an island sliced off from the mainland by the waterway and its tributaries. Just west of the city, the river’s surface is so wide it could pass for a sea.

This abundance of water is a clue to why Quebec has become one of the world’s leaders in carbon-free energy. Lakes and rivers here pack enough power to supply the 7 million Quebecois with 95 percent of the electricity they need.

“This country and this region really know how to run hydropower well,” says Anne McEntee, vice president for renewable energy services at GE Renewable Energy. “But there’s no reason why you cannot get even better. For decades, advances in hydro have primarily been on the physical side of things, being able to get more out of your physical assets through redesign and engineering. We are now looking at digital applications as the next advance.”

“Our new software allows us to observe how the physical components behave in real time.”

McEntee says the insights allow customers to adapt the turbine’s operations to the specific conditions on-site, rather than strictly follow the manual. “We can take into account the real water and flow conditions versus what it was designed to do,” she says. “This allows us to make use of the error tolerance and get more power when we need it, like when the price is favorable. We are constantly looking for opportunities to squeeze out 1, 2, 3 percent of efficiency.” more>

How Does Solar Photovoltaic Energy Work?

Evergreen Solar – The solar photovoltaic cells in your solar panels are the mechanisms which convert sunlight into energy. When you install solar panels on your house, the PV cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) and an inverter connected to the system is what converts direct current into alternating current (AC) – which is the type of current needed to power your household appliances. This power runs through your electrical panel box, just like electricity you get from the grid, and you can potentially run your entire house on solar power than power taken from the grid.

Most residential solar energy systems are still connected to the grid. This is to allow for uninterrupted electricity in occasions when you don’t have enough solar energy to continue to power your house (e.g., on cloudy days or during the night).

If you generate enough energy from your solar panels such that you have “extra” energy left over, it will get fed back to the grid and you will get credit for this contribution of energy. Termed “net metering,” this transfer of electricity allows some customers to still maintain a $0 electric bill even when using the utility company’s energy from the grid. more>

Updates from GE

No Laughing Matter: The World Is Running Out Of Helium, But It Won’t Hold These MRI Engineers Down
By Tomas Kellner and Dorothy Pomerantz – MRI machines explore the body by using powerful magnets and pulsing radio frequency signals. For the magnets to work, MRI manufacturers such as GE use liquid helium to cool them to minus 452 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 269 Celsius), just above absolute zero. At that temperature, they lose all electrical resistance and become superconducting.

“When you power up a super-cooled magnet, it can produce the same magnetic field for a thousand years with no more power required,” MR engineer and inventor Trifon Laskaris told GE Reports. The problem is that some machines need as much as 8,000 liters of the helium, and the world is running out of it, to the chagrin of radiologists and party-store owners alike.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 got the government out of the business of producing the gas. But sales from the huge U.S. helium reserve stored in porous rock deep underneath Amarillo, Texas, kept down prices and gave private producers few incentives to enter the market. The shortage followed. more>

Updates from GE

By Dorothy Pomerantz – America’s largest machine — the power grid — has been pumping lifeblood electricity from power plants to our homes and businesses for more than a century.

The vast network of wires, switches, transformers and other technology has gone through periodic upgrades, but the infrastructure is aging and increasingly prone to blackouts. Unfortunately, the stress on the network is starting to show at exactly the time when we need it to shoulder and move thousands of megawatts from new wind farms and solar installations popping up all over the country.

Ever since Westinghouse and Tesla beat Edison in the “current wars,” alternating current (AC) has been the dominant method of shipping power over long distances. But Clean Line is now working with GE — the company Edison co-founded — to change that.

HVDC (highest-voltage direct-current) is a much more efficient way to move energy over long distances than alternating current. “If you used AC, you would need more wires in the air to get the same amount of power the same distance,” says Neil Kirby, HVDC business development manager at Grid Solutions from GE Energy Connections.

Wind turbines will send electricity to GE-built stations, where it will be converted from AC to DC. The electricity will flow across HVDC lines and will be converted back into AC before it goes into homes and factories. This method conserves more energy and is more economical and environmentally friendly than transporting the electricity as AC the entire way. more>

Commodity traders must go digital or face extinction

By Julia Payne – Until now the oil and gas industry has remained largely immune to technology leaps. But while banks trading physical commodities may be a thing of the past, U.S. consultancy Oliver Wyman sees their role as “pioneering blockchain technologies” for commodity financing.

Blockchain works by creating permanent, public “ledgers” of all transactions that could potentially replace complicated clearing and settlement systems.

While traditional energy sources and traders will continue for the foreseeable future, “an army of new low-cost digital contenders” is breaking into the power market.

Technology giants like Apple and Google already have energy wholesalers as subsidiaries. Online platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and transport providers like Uber will use revenue from their core services to sell power for far less, the report said. more>


Updates from Georgia Tech

Study Finds “Lurking Malice” in Cloud Hosting Services
By John Toon – “Bad actors have migrated to the cloud along with everybody else,” said Raheem Beyah, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The bad guys are using the cloud to deliver malware and other nefarious things while remaining undetected. The resources they use are compromised in a variety of ways, from traditional exploits to simply taking advantage of poor configurations.”

Beyah and graduate student Xiaojing Liao found that the bad actors could hide their activities by keeping components of their malware in separate repositories that by themselves didn’t trigger traditional scanners. Only when they were needed to launch an attack were the different parts of this malware assembled.

“Some exploits appear to be benign until they are assembled in a certain way,” explained Beyah, who is the Motorola Foundation Professor and associate chair for strategic initiatives and innovation in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “When you scan the components in a piecemeal kind of way, you only see part of the malware, and the part you see may not be malicious.”

In the cloud, malicious actors take advantage of how difficult it can be to scan so much storage. Operators of cloud hosting services may not have the resources to do the deep scans that may be necessary to find the Bars – and their monitoring of repositories may be limited by service-level agreements. more>


Updates from GE

This Ship Has Sailed: U.S. Navy Commissions An All-Electric Stealth Destroyer Zumwalt For Service
By Tomas Kellner – The U.S. Navy has commissioned for service the USS Zumwalt, its largest and most advanced stealth destroyer. The ceremony took place in Baltimore on Saturday (Oct 15).

The Navy estimates the 15,600-ton vessel can hit a target at a range of more than 60 miles. It also has a wave-piercing tumblehome design and a unique superstructure that make it less visible to enemy radar at sea.

The ship is equally innovative below deck. Traditionally, the Navy powered its vessels with gas turbines driving controllable pitch propellers through large and complex gearboxes. But the new destroyer has on board a 78-megawatt power station supplying electricity to an advanced integrated power system (IPS). GE Marine designed the system, which powers giant GE induction motors connected directly to the propeller shafts and routes electricity to a vast array of sensors, weapons, radar and other critical systems on board.

As a result, the ship will have nearly 10 times as much available power as its predecessors. In fact, the Zumwalt could become the first ship carrying next-generation weapons such as electromagnetic railguns, which use a strong electromagnetic pulse, rather than gunpowder, to shoot projectiles. “We’re no longer restricting the engines to provide propulsion power only,” Adam Kabulski, director for naval accounts at GE Power Conversion, told GE Reports.

“This design allows you to send electric power wherever you need it. You can access many megawatts in a short amount of time and convert it into energy. It’s instantaneous.”

The system is also highly redundant. Instead of the typical three-phase motors, the Zumwalt’s advanced induction motors have 15 phases. Kabulski said that by simply reversing the direction of the rotating magnetic field in the motor, for example, the shaft can turn in the opposite direction to give astern power. more>

Updates from GE

Like A Diamond In The Rough, This Abrasive Material Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Mark Egan – In 1891, Edward Acheson was working at Thomas Edison’s famed Menlo Park laboratory, trying to make artificial diamonds by heating clay and powdered coke in an iron bowl with a carbon arc light. The result wasn’t pretty.

Instead of diamonds, he created silicon carbide—a hard and rough compound used for decades mostly as an abrasive in industrial sandpaper, grinding wheels and cutting tools, and later a grip tape for skateboard decks.

But Acheson’s accidental discovery is getting a second life as a miracle material for power management chips that could revolutionize everything from planes and locomotives to medical equipment. One of silicon carbide’s latest applications is inside solar inverters, the devices that switch direct current (DC) from solar panels into alternating current (AC) that flows from the wall outlet.

GE has been testing the first utility-scale prototype SiC inverter in the GE Power Conversion lab in Berlin for the past two years.

The technology included in the LV5+ Solar eHouse Solution solves another quandary facing solar plants—how to turn power plant transformers on and off safely. Shutting them down at night can cause voltage spikes, and reconnecting them to the grid produces a large inflow of current, putting mechanical stress on equipment and shortening its life.

As a result, many operators leave equipment on overnight, consuming a couple of kilowatts while the inverter is not producing power during the nighttime hours—a cost of $800,000 over a 100MW plant’s life.

Using intelligent controls, the LV5+ equalizes the voltage at the transformer and at the grid, allowing transformers to be connected or disconnected smoothly and cleanly.

The end result is more cost savings for customers, Schelenz says. more>