The black, 18-wheel tractor-trailer that sat in a parking lot on the General Electric campus Monday was dwarfed by Building 273, an enormous structure where steam turbines and generators are built.
But the small-looking truck housed a big picture — a comprehensive view of how the components produced in the nearby building will play an integral part in the company’s new FlexEfficiency 60 power generation technology.
The truck, which is in the middle of a four-month, 25-city tour of North America, stopped in Schenectady on Monday to give GE employees a look at the inner workings of the new power generation system, which was unveiled in September.
Designed to work in tandem with renewable resources, officials say the natural gas-fueled technology will result in a cleaner environment and lower energy prices.
The exhibits in the truck — scale models of the enormous working parts of the combined cycle power plant — are geared toward potential customers, and GE already has quite a few lined up.
“We’ve already announced $1.2 billion in new orders, which is the fastest product launch in the history of our company for a new power plant,” said Paul Browning, president and CEO of Thermal Products at GE Power and Water.
Customers already onboard include companies in Japan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
The interactive exhibits on display in the touring tractor-trailer explain the popular new technology in detail.
There’s a model of a 7 F 7 series gas turbine, an H-26 generator, a D-17 steam turbine and an entire FlexEfficiency 60 Combined Cycle Power Plant. Flat screen monitors mounted above each exhibit explain how the components work.
The gas turbine, the generator and the steam turbine work in tandem to generate energy in the combined cycle system.
The steam turbines and the generators on display are mini replicas of ones that will be built in Schenectady. The gas turbines will be built in Greenville, S.C.
Close to 200 hourly production and skilled trade workers were added to the Schenectady factory’s payroll this year, but officials won’t confirm that the new technology is what brought those new jobs to the area.
The company spent approximately a half-billion dollars to formulate the technology for the power system and another $170 million on the test facility used to validate it, Browning said.
Combined cycle power plants aren’t anything new, but the FlexEfficiency 60 technology has features that set it apart.
“The entire power plant here can start in under 30 minutes and come to a full [power] load. The ramp up is twice as fast as any other technology,” said Brian Gutknecht, manager of Thermal Marketing for GE Power and Water.
That’s an important feature when renewable energy is put into the mix. The gas-fired technology can rapidly increase or decrease power output in response to fluctuations in wind and solar power.
The system is also capable of reaching greater than 61 percent thermal efficiency, which will make it the most efficient combined cycle power plant available, Gutknecht said.
The quick ramp-up time and high efficiency rate enables more renewable energy sources to be added to the system without worry about power shortages when the sun’s not shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
Upping the use of solar and wind power reduces CO2 emissions, Gutknecht noted.
In addition, the natural gas-fueled turbines produce about half the amount of greenhouse gases coal-fired units do, per unit of electricity, Browning said.
“What’s even better about that is because natural gas is so cheap these days, and because our technology has brought the cost of renewable energy down, this combination of gas and renewables is actually cheaper than the coal-fired power that we were buying in the past,” he said.
The technology is still in the development phase. The first of the power plants isn’t scheduled to ship until 2015 and will start generating electricity in late 2016, Gutknecht said.