Dive Brief:

  • General Electric has launched an energy storage platform and says its first order, for a 20 MW, 80 MWh project, will be deployed late next year.
  • GE’s Reservoir storage platform is based on a 1.2 MW, 4 MWh modular unit the size of a shipping container.
  • By using its proprietary Battery Blade design, GE says its Reservoir platform can deliver a 15% improvement in battery lifecycle, 5% higher efficiency, and reduced installation time and costs.

GE is stepping up its storage game with the announcement of Reservoir, an energy storage platform aimed at applications that could help enhance the performance and duration of solar and wind power plants, as well as relieving congestion on the grid, for instance, by deferring the need for a new substation.

The Reservoir announcement comes amidst GE’s efforts to revitalize itself and its power business. Late last year, GE said it planned to lay off 12,000 employees at its GE Power unit.

The unit has been hurt by slack demand for electricity that has affected the sale of generating equipment. The slowdown in turbine orders has been compounded by GE’s 2015, $10 billion acquisition of generation equipment manufacturer Alstom.

The GE Power layoffs were preceded by an announcement by GE’s new CEO, John Flannery, of a wider restructuring effort calling for $20 billion in divestments.

Within the power sector, GE recently refocused its energy storage efforts, moving storage personnel back from a unit called Current and setting up a new, stand-alone energy storage unit within GE Power.

With Reservoir, GE is making a bid for a share of the energy side of the utility-scale energy storage market, which calls for storage devices capable of delivering a continuous flow of electrons for relatively long durations. “This is an energy application with a four-hour duration,” Eric Gebhardt, vice president and strategic technology officer of GE Power, told Utility Dive.

Utility-scale energy storage is a market that one of GE’s main competitors, Siemens, is also pursuing. Last summer, Siemens joined with AES Corp. to create a global energy storage technology and services company calledFluence.

GE is also pursuing the power side of the energy storage market with its hybrid gas turbine that incorporates a 10 MW/4.3 MWh battery with a 50 MW gas turbine. The setup enables the turbine to ramp up more quickly and reduce fuel consumption.

Gebhardt said the Reservoir product is aimed at applications that could help enhance the performance and duration of solar and wind power plants, as well as relieving congestion on the grid, for instance, by deferring the need for a new substation.

GE is scheduled to begin manufacturing its Reservoir units later this year, though it will be more of an assembly than a manufacturing process.

Gebhardt said GE uses battery cells and modules from “tier one” manufacturers who assemble the components into GE Blade units. “We do all the engineering,” Gebhardt said.

He likened the Blade units to a server that is comprised of a series of modular processors. The assembly “gives us a large number of knobs to turn and allows us to control the flow of voltage across the individual components,” he said. GE then installs diagnostic and analytics on top of the Blade assembly.

The result, said Gebhardt, is a unit that is the size of a 20 foot storage container that is modular, scalable and easy to install at either utility sites or at remote locations.