A NEW GENERATION OF MODified jet-airplane engines could soon be generating the electricity for your microwave oven.

General Electric Co. already sells an electricity-generating version of its CF6 jet engine, which is used on the Boeing 747. Such engines are good where electricity is needed on short notice, such as in developing nations--or currently in Connecticut. All four of that state's nuclear plants are shut down.

But a consortium based in Lafayette, Calif., called Collaborative Advanced Gas Turbine LLP aims to broaden the niche for jet turbines. The idea is to use versions of engines developed for the Boeing 777 by Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, and GE, such as the GE90 (photo). The group's president, George A. Hay III, says that efficiency for generation could be boosted by "intercooling"--cooling the incoming air between the engine's first and second compressor stages. Backed by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Gas Research Institute, among others, the consortium plans to work with one of the big jet-engine makers, which it won't name, to develop an intercooled engine.

The timing is right: Under deregulation, utilities are interested in power sources that they can turn on and off quickly to meet transitory demand.

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