GE Wind, Flying High, Fears Hard Landing

GE is big, owning some 30 percent of the U.S. wind turbine market. So when it tipped over its basket of announcements at the Windpower 2012 conference in Atlanta last week, a lot fluttered out.

Yet for all the good news delivered by the GE PR department – big deals in Michigan, a modest but interesting one in Iowa, and lots of 1.6-100 turbines moving – the GE execs on the ground didn’t mince words: With the production tax credit seemingly disappearing at year’s end, there could be dark days ahead.

texas wind farm

image via GE

Vic Abate, vice president of renewable energy for GE, told Bloomberg that the company is examining its supply chain, seeing who might stay and who might go. “We’re in the process of picking winners and losers,” Abate said.

Even if the PTC rises from the ashes late this year, post-election, it could take months for the industry to gear back up – practically ensuring that at next year’s Windpower conference GE and all its vendors won’t have nearly as much to brag about as they did this year. And there was a lot this year.

For sheer monetary value, there was the deal to supply 137 wind turbines, adding up to 220 megwatts (MW), to DTE Energy for several wind power plants in Michigan. Sixty-nine 1.6-100 turbines will go to DTE’s Sigel, Minden and McKinley projects, and 68 units are bound for a wind project in Chandler Township, adjacent to the McKinley site. GE said DTE Energy’s total investment in the projects is a cool half-billion dollars.

The 1.6-100 is GE’s new star turbine, introduced in May 2011 and the company said it figures to have more than 1,500 units installed around the world by the end of this year.

GE says the 1.6-100 has the highest capacity factor of any turbine operating in North America. The difference is blades and towers that extend 100 meters, giving it 47 percent more swept area – the total area covered by the spinning blades — over previous megawatt-class models. This, GE said, results in “a 19 percent increase in annual energy production at wind speeds of 7.5 meters per second,” and “enables the turbine to deliver moderate wind speed performance even when operating in low-wind environments.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.