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GE Links NY and NJ Grids with Variable Frequency Transformers

GE recently completed the installation of variable frequency transformers (VFT) at the Linden, NJ cogeneration plant, owned by GE Energy Financial Services, which will allow power from the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland transmission system to flow into New York City.

VFT rotary system. Click to enlarge.

Each of the three variable frequency transformers, a GE smart grid technology, will facilitate the transmission of up to 100 megawatts of power for a total of 300 megawatts. This electricity will help stabilize New York City’s power grid and will provide unparalleled flexibility for utilities.

The VFT system is based on a combination of hydro generator and transformer technologies. It consists of a rotary transformer for continuously controllable phase shift, together with a drive system and control that adjust the angle and speed of the rotary transformer to regulate the power flow through the VFT.

Smooth power control comes from regulating the torque through the drive system. Rotational speed is dictated by the difference in grid frequencies and generally will be below 3 rpm.

The variable frequency transformers precisely control the flow of power from one grid to another even in the smallest increments, helping utilities manage their operations more effectively in an ever-changing energy market with fluctuating electricity prices. These VFT units will increase system reliability, provide New Yorkers with access to more diversified and lower-cost power sources, and will reduce the need for new power plants within the city, where finding sites is difficult and construction costs are high.

The transformers are essential when moving power from one grid to another, as the “peaks and troughs” making up the voltage must “match”—which means the peaks must be synchronized in time.



While we hold no grudge against GE or its fine subsidiaries - and this VFT technology is apparently a boon for power distribution - but there are so many more avenues GE could be exploring.

the most important IMHO is development of domestic manufactured Residential Power Units. These are essentially combined cooling and heating and power units, initially fueled by NG. Why would GE build something that would remove customers from the grid? Well, the reel answer is - for money.

RPUs manufactured and installed on a scale of millions of homes will produce a huge new revenue stream for manufacturers and installer/maintenance companies. While several foreign manufacturers dominate the CCHP market today - it represents an enormous potential for domestic energy businesses. Building and installing 20-30 million RPUS represents a huge income potential. And RPUs are electromechanical devices and therefore need regular maintenance and upkeep.

As new sources of "fuel" come online these RPUs can be readily upgraded to produce cheap, clean electrical energy along with heating and cooling of homes and multi-unit dwellings. An energy revolution? Maybe not. A smart move for GE? Definitely. And it leverages our domestic NG resources, grows jobs, eliminates new power plants and grid costs, AND is a major move to energy security.

When homes and communities generate their own power, a terrorist attack on the grid will have minimal effect. Forget climate change and get to work on Global Energy Independence - a campaign that doesn't need fabrication.


This is highly beneficial- improvements in grid interconnectedness aid in delivering power over long distances, such as from Midwestern wind farms to NYC. Wind power production in particular is quite fickle over even short time scales, so even if the area had a big offshore wind farm right nearby, it would only increase the need for interconnectedness to distant power sources to help smooth out the peaks and valleys in production from one minute to the next.

I'm all for home-grown energy and keeping production and usage as close together as possible, but I don't think it's realistic to expect that a dense city like NYC can make all of its power locally, either. We do have domestic natural gas resources but there is no surplus as it is. All the LNG terminals proposed for construction are intended for importation of natural gas from overseas- there is no excess to export. So RPUs or fuel cells in every basement in the city in some ways would just be a new sink for imported fossil fuels. There's some room for them, no doubt, and GE already DOES make residential fuel cells. I think they are correctly positioned- they are covering both bases and are staying in their core areas of expertise, which do not include reciprocating engines. Honda already makes such an RPU, and it is not exactly selling like hotcakes.



"So RPUs or fuel cells in every basement in the city in some ways would just be a new sink for imported fossil fuels. There's some room for them, no doubt, and GE already DOES make residential fuel cells."

You are right in that highly dense cities with near-zero single family dwellings are not a good areas for RPU buildout. And of course NG is non-renewable and therefor not a long term solution to any energy issue. However, there are technologies to produce syngas from biomass and use that as the fuel for CHP (one just completed for multi-unit development in Victoria British Columbia.)

Clearly grid-distributed power from combined resources is the most expedient source of energy for dense cities. But there are good business reasons to pursue RPUs for single and multi-family dwellings. Not the least of which is in support of the primary U.S. energy goal: Energy Independence.

"(GE) are covering both bases and are staying in their core areas of expertise, which do not include reciprocating engines."

GE Distributed Power does in fact sell reciprocating engines and servies for co-generation:

If GE sees itself as an energy company then positioning itself for an expansion in distributed energy would include RPU assets of various designs, biomass -> syngas partnerships, wind energy, FCs (the GE HomeGen 7000 has apparently been suspended)and various PV/hybrids.

There is room and need for all viable energy technologies. And even though FCs get a bad rap from greens they do have a place in distributed energy strategies:

BTW, doesn't GE produce that humorless TV sitcom "30 Rock?"


Are you kidding?  Multi-family dwellings with central boilers are IDEAL for CHP; the units are bigger, and thus cheaper per kW as well as more efficient.

As an example, consider a building that needs 800,000 BTU/hr peak for heating.  You could supply this with two 30 kW Capstone turbines at about 260,000 BTU/hr exhaust heat each (recoverable at 90%) plus duct-firing to meet peak requirements.  They would be quiet and clean.  A GM V8 running on NG is another option, not so quiet but cheap and readily available.

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