General Electric to Power Up New Battery Plant in Upstate New York

General Electric to Power Up New Battery Plant in Upstate New York

General Electric plans to open a $100 million state-of-the-art, heavy-duty battery manufacturing plant just north of New York's state capital, where it is expected to be the core of the firm's new battery business, the company announced today.

The plant is to be located near the company's Global Research unit, also in Niskayuna, which has been the source of the firm's advancements in battery chemistry. Establishment of the facility will effectively centralize research, development and commercialization for GE's battery business, which will become part of GE Transportation and serve customers in the rail, marine, mining, telecommunications and utility sectors.

The operation is expected to create some 350 new manufacturing jobs for the company, and that new workforce is expected to produce about 10 million cells each year when the site is at full capacity. According to GE, that output is the equivalent of creating 900 megawatt hours of energy storage. Put another way, that's energy storage capacity for enough power for 1,000 U.S. homes for a month.

Announcement of the plan comes as GE seeks federal stimulus money from the Department of Energy. The firm hopes to obtain federal funding for the new factory later this summer and has a goal of having the plant up, running and producing batteries by mid 2011.

GE's development of advanced battery technologies, a more than $150 million proposition for the company, includes a high-energy density, sodium-based chemistry battery that is intended for several future applications -- the first being the company's hybrid locomotive, which has a commercialization target date of 2010. The company says other key applications for the batteries are heavy service vehicles, backup storage and load leveling for the smart grid, and that other launch customers would include businesses involving mining, telecommunications or utilities.

GE has also made substantial investment in A123, a major supplier of lithium batteries for plug-in electric passenger cars.

In remarks made today while detailing the plan for the new factory, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said the firm believes advanced batteries will be a $1 billion business over the next decade.

In survey results released today by Johnson Controls Inc., 84 percent of U.S. adults say that the federal government should support advancement of battery technology in the country.

The online survey of 2,000 people by Harris Interactive in March also found that 88 percent of U.S. adults believe their country must become a leader in hybrid vehicles. The reasons for doing so include reducing the nation's reliance on foreign oil, according to 81 percent of the respondents; creating jobs, 67 percent; and reducing the U.S. impact on the environment, 64 percent.

Becoming a leader in the field and attaining government support in the form of strong consumer incentives, in addition to a federal boost for development , would help bring down the cost for hybrid cars, respondents told researchers. Eighty percent said purchase price or perceived insufficient cost savings were among the key barriers to purchase of the vehicles.