BY MICHAEL LAMENDOLA, Gazette Reporter
General Electric is adding jobs in its steam turbine and generator unit at the Schenectady campus, a welcome sign of growth, local officials said.
The company plans to hire 15 to 25 hourly employees, the “result of a small uptick we’re seeing in new equipment volume in the plant, as well as an anticipated increase in services work,” said GE spokeswoman Christine Horne.
GE will build three D-11 steam turbines and generators in Schenectady as part of a $750 million contract it landed with Reliance Power Ltd. of India. The company will also build six Frame 9FA gas turbines in South Carolina and provide training and long-term service for the project.
The contract is the largest gas turbine combined-cycle project in India’s history and will help the country meet its continuing demand for reliable electricity to support its rapidly growing economy, according to GE.
In a combined-cycle configuration, exhaust gas from a gas turbine-generator is converted to steam, which is used to drive a steam turbine-generator, enabling the plant to produce additional power without an increase in fuel consumption, according to GE.
Horne said the contract will support more than 1,200 manufacturing and 400 engineering jobs in Schenectady.
President Barack Obama had planned to discuss the Indian contract and the importance of promoting free trade agreements as a way to create American jobs during his visit to Schenectady on Tuesday. He postponed the visit following Saturday’s assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.
Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors in Albany said the GE contract reflects that the global demand for power systems is starting to improve. “GE has a special position in the power system business globally,” he said. “When you see GE Power Systems is hiring, that means there is an increase in demand.”
The Schenectady campus is home to GE’s energy division, including an operations center that monitors 13,500 GE wind turbines scattered across the world, with the capacity to monitor thousands more. It employs 650 people — engineers, technicians and support personnel — and serves as headquarters for GE’s renewable energy business.
GE is converting Building 66 on the Schenectady campus into a $100 million facility that will build sodium metal halide batteries. The battery plant will open this year and is projected to produce approximately 10 million cells annually when at full capacity. The power cells will have the capability of generating 900 megawatt-hours of energy per year — the equivalent of the battery power required for 45,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with an 80-mile range, or enough energy to support 1,000 GE hybrid locomotives, the company states.
Since entering the market in 2002, GE has invested nearly $1 billion in developing renewable energy technologies, and its wind turbines comprise half of all those installed in the United States. It also has wind turbines in 11 other countries, generating 20 gigawatts of energy.
Ray Gillen, commissioner of Economic Development and Planning for Schenectady County, said the growth of GE’s energy business is an important story. “When you look at the two projects — 650 jobs at the Renewable Energy Headquarters and 350 jobs at the battery plant — that’s 1,000 jobs.
Now you see jobs being created in steam turbines and generators,” he said. “This is one of the top five manufacturing campuses in the state.”
The downtown GE campus employs 4,000 people and the GE Research and Development Center in Niskayuna employs 2,000 people, Gillen said.
Since 2004, GE has invested more than $200 million in Schenectady County, including four different projects at the R&D center, the $100 million battery plant and the $45 million construction of the Renewable Energy Headquarters.
“The Schenectady County economic development team has advocated and obtained funding from the governor’s office totaling $20 million for these expansions and the Metroplex Development Authority is providing $5 million,” Gillen said. Gillen chairs Metroplex.
Gillen said the county is hoping to see further growth associated with GE. “We are hoping this will lead to the clustering of suppliers and others. This is part of a comprehensive strategy to get GE to invest in the community and create jobs.”