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GE to end Durathon battery operations in Schenectady

GE to end Durathon battery operations in Schenectady

General Electric is ceasing its Durathon battery manufacturing and engineering operations in Schenec
GE to end Durathon battery operations in Schenectady
In this 2013 photo, GE workers Daniel Thum, left, and Thomas Yawn, are in the Durathon plant at the Main Campus on Edison Avenue in Schenectady. Thum is holding two of the fifteen ceramic tubes that conduct electrical current inside the battery.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

General Electric is ceasing its Durathon battery manufacturing and engineering operations in Schenectady resulting in 35 job cuts, the company announced on Friday.

GE spokesman Nik Noel said 45 hourly employees would be given the option to transfer to GE’s steam turbine and generator unit. But 35 salary positions at the energy storage plant at Building 66 will be eliminated.

“The energy storage industry has been evolving,” Noel said. “In January we announced we would reduce the production rate for Durathon. We still believe Durathon battery technology is suitable for certain applications, but it’s not cost effective compared to other battery technologies.”

Noel said the 34 employees have received a 90-day notification of their termination. He said GE’s management and human resources teams plan to help them find other available positions within the company.

With the announcement of Friday’s job cuts, the battery plant will be left with about 100 total employees, Noel said.

Manufacturing of the Durathon, a sodium-nickel battery, began in September 2011 after GE bought the technology from UK-based Beta R&D. GE touted it as a breakthrough, citing its energy density and low toxicity.

Noel stressed that GE remains committed to its energy storage business.

“Building 66 itself is not closing, we’re just ceasing manufacturing of that line,” he said. “We have shifted the strategy so we’re not just manufacturing a battery anymore. We have become a full systems provider over the course of the last year. We still think the long-term energy business is good.”

In January, GE announced it was reducing the production rate at the battery plant, affecting about 400 employees. A significant number of hourly employees were shifted to the company’s steam turbine operation in Building 273.

GE invested $170 million in the plant, which opened in July 2012 inside an old turbine factory on the Schenectady campus. At the time, the company pledged to create 450 jobs by 2015.

Also at the time, GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt projected the battery business would reach $500 million in 2015 and $1 billion five years later. President Barack Obama lauded the technology during a visit to the Schenectady campus in 2011.

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