For natural gas turbines - the technology likely to dominate the growing
market for new electric power generation - the future was unveiled today
in Greenville, South Carolina.
The 4000-ton Model MS7001H advanced gas turbine
is the size of a locomotive.
Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings
joined General Electric today in announcing that the company's newest
H System gas turbine, the most advanced combustion turbine
in the world, is ready to cross the commercial threshold.
"Today, we are seeing the most advanced combustion turbine anywhere,
incorporating breakthroughs that were barely imagined a decade ago,"
said Secretary Richardson. "This milestone will not only help maintain
a cleaner environment, it will help fuel our growing economy, and it will
keep electric bills low in homes and businesses across our country."
The new machine, the size of a large locomotive, is the product of a
jointly funded development effort between GE Power Systems and the U.S.
Department of Energy. Developed at GE's Greenville manufacturing facility,
the turbine passed a critical verification test earlier this month and
is being readied for shipment to a power plant being built near Scriba,
New York, by Sithe Energies, one of the world's largest independent power
Natural gas turbines are expected to make up more than 80 percent of
the power generating capacity to be added in the United States over the
next 10 to 15 years. Of the more than 200 new power plant projects announced
recently in the United States, 96 percent plan to use natural gas and
most will employ gas turbines. Globally, the turbine market also promises
to be huge with worldwide power generation perhaps approaching $100 billion
over the next decade.
"Gas turbines will be the clear choice for the next wave of power
plant construction. The new technology developed and manufactured here
in Greenville will be at the crest of that wave," said Senator Hollings.
"By keeping the 'Made-in-America' stamp on the world's most sophisticated
power turbine, we will keep jobs in America and in South Carolina."
Richardson's and Hollings' remarks came at a ceremony in which GE introduced
the gas turbine, officially designated the MS7001H, to nearly 100 prospective
customers and other invited guests.
The turbine is the culminating achievement of a Department of Energy
research and development effort that began in the early 1990s when GE
was one of six developers selected to begin designing concepts for a breakthrough
turbine system. The development effort received a major boost in 1993
when it was included in President Clinton's Economic Stimulus Program.
When the program concludes, the Energy Department will have invested
almost $100 million in the development effort with GE contributing more
than $500 million, including $200 million in the federal program.
Designed to work in a "combined cycle" power plant - a plant
that combines gas turbines and steam turbines to produce electricity -
the H System will be the most efficient power generation
system in the world. It will be the first gas turbine to top the 60 percent
efficiency threshold -- the "four minute mile" of turbine technology.
When the Energy Department began its advanced turbine development program
in the early 1990s, the best turbines available had efficiencies of about
Because fuel represents the largest single cost of running a power plant,
an increase of 10 percentage points in efficiency can reduce operating
costs by as much as $200 million over the life of a typical gas-fired
400-500 megawatt combined cycle plant.
The efficiency gains have been achieved because the turbine fires natural
gas nearly 300 degrees hotter than conventional turbines, reaching temperatures
of 2600 degrees F. Advanced cooling techniques and new alloys were developed
to handle the hotter temperatures. The turbine also employs the world's
largest single crystal airfoils, making the turbine blades much more resistant
to high temperature cracking than the multi-directional crystal design
The turbine also operates cleaner than any of today's utility gas turbines.
Its nitrogen oxide emission levels of 9 parts-per-million will be half
the average of the turbines now in use, making the new technology suitable
for siting in the nation's most environmentally constrained areas.
In addition, the H System turbine will produce the fewest
tons of carbon dioxide per kilowatt of electricity of any gas turbine
available today. When deployed commercially, it can make a significant
contribution toward reducing greenhouse gases that can cause global warming.
The system introduction today will produce electricity at 60-hertz, making
it suitable for the U.S. power grid. GE has also developed a companion
H System turbine -- the 50-hertz 9H series -- for the overseas
market. The 50-hertz version is scheduled to begin commercial service
at the Baglan Energy Park in South Wales in 2002.