Can GE’s New Energy Storage Platform Help the Flailing GE Turnaround?

March 7, 2018 by Jon C. Ogg

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has had more troubles than can easily be counted, and the GE Power unit has seen some mixed results over time. Now GE is unveiling a new battery platform called GE Reservoir that will aim to store the power produced by wind turbines and solar panels. This also would have a use to add power into the grid or into systems when needed.

It is far from a secret that GE is struggling to turn itself around from the multiyear debacles that came to a head in 2017. The question that ought to be considered under such a large conglomerate structure is whether any one new effort can help the overall turnaround.

GE’s Reservoir is a new grid-scale energy storage system that will allow producers of electricity to decouple the time of when energy is produced and when it is consumed. After all, it’s hard to get wind power when the air is still. It’s also not very feasible to rely on solar power in the rain and at night. And then sometimes there is just much more localized input than can be used, and that means that production has to be lowered.

Reservoir is not just a small power effort. GE envisions the power storage market growing exponentially. And its new battery system is said to be powerful enough to restart an entire power plant. That would prevent it from running in standby mode. GE even used a similar system to restart a gas-fired power station in California’s Imperial Valley last year.

GE used a figure from Navigant Consulting, which shows a forecast that the energy storage system market will reach $16.2 billion by 2025.

GE is aiming to make this system quite simple to use and install. The Reservoir systems are assembled and tested in a factory, and the installation time is expected to be as much as 70% less than traditional large systems now. The team at GE says these show up as a 20-foot container, which can be dropped onto a foundation and then hooked right up.

GE’s Reservoir is also said to come with an estimated 15% improved lifecycle on the batteries and 5% higher efficiency from its silicon carbide systems. The material combines features from diamonds with silicon. GE said:

The GE Reservoir consists of modular, grid-scale batteries that can stack together like Lego blocks. Each of these 1.25-megawatt systems holds 16,000 lithium-ion battery cells that can release 4 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to supply customers for four hours.

Eric Gebhardt, vice president and strategic technology officer of GE Power, said:

GE’s Reservoir platform enables cost-effective distribution, storage, and utilization of cleaner, more reliable power where and when it is needed most. It can fit into most any setting, from centralized grid systems to the most remote villages and communities. The Reservoir also allows energy providers new degrees of flexibility for more intelligently managing and getting the most out of all their power assets.

GE shares had been rising this week, but the Reservoir release was not helping to drive GE shares up on a day when the broader markets were lower. GE’s shares were down 1.3% at $14.44, in a 52-week trading range of $13.95 to $30.54.

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