GE Solar Project Echoes New Research, Business Focus

GE Energy’s solar electric power systems were recently installed on the roof of GE’s European Global Research Center in Garching, near Munich, Germany. The move is partly spurred by GE’s new foray into solar photovoltaics (PV) and their larger branded effort to promote their business divisions that offer environmentally-sensitive solutions to technology and energy needs.

GE Energy’s 45-kW commercial solar system was installed by NEAP (Natur Energienanlagen Projekte GmbH), based in Munich. The 256 solar module system provides power to the local utility grid and now is also being used to power test systems for the high-voltage laboratory. The project is in line with the company’s branded marketing move to address environmental challenges. Called Ecomagination, GE’s effort involves investments of $1.5 billion annually in research in cleaner technologies by 2010, up from $700 million in 2004. The Munich facility is part of GE Global Research, the centralized research and development organization for the company. Alternative energy is one of the main area of research at the Munich center. Sensor technologies and advanced healthcare are also key research areas. “The solar energy system installed on our roof provides power to the grid and to our building and also serves as a test platform for research in developing next-generation, large-scale solar energy systems,” said Armin Pfoh, GE’s managing director for the European Global Research Center. The installation of GE Energy’s solar modules at the European center follows the installation of a solar energy system two years ago on the roof of GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York where it is also used to test solar energy system designs. The Niskayuna facility has been conducting solar research since 2002. “We are very pleased to have our solar electric systems installed at another GE Global Research Center,” said Ali Iz, general manager, GE Energy’s Solar Technologies division. “GE’s European Global Research Center continues to make technological advances in solar research and these advances are helping to drive ecomagination.” The primary research being done in Munich focuses on new designs of solar power modules and solar applications for water treatment including desalination and water pumping. Research also is being done on ensuring utility grid stability and power quality as the influx of variable power technologies continues to grow. GE’s broadening interest in renewables has lead to a revitalization of its solar research programs. In addition to the solar research at the Munich center, GE’s global solar research programs also include work with high efficiency inverters, advanced semiconductor materials for high performance solar cells and organic materials for low cost photovoltaic cells. GE’s wide range of technical expertise in developing technologies across many businesses has enabled GE to develop unique products for its solar business. The Munich facility was GE’s first research and development center in Europe and the fourth worldwide. Located on the Garching campus of the Technical University of Munich, the European Global Research Center currently employs approximately 75 scientists and engineers with plans to reach 150 in 2006.
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