Winnebago-Size Turbines Buoy GE Where It Stumbled Before

  • Two new purchases push order tally for HA model to 19
  • Units as heavy as a 747 jet get `extremely favorable' response

General Electric Co. is poised to announce two orders for its newest gas turbine, signaling growing customer interest as the company seeks to avoid the stumbles that marked its last foray into the top end of the market.

The latest agreements bring firm purchases for the so-called HA turbine to 19. The early demand ahead of a commercial debut next year contrasts with GE’s struggle to gain traction in the mid-2000s with a problem-plagued model that had fewer than 10 sales.

“The orders we’ve got booked and the amount of bid activity we see in a tough market -- the response has been extremely favorable,” Monte Atwell, a general manager in GE Power & Water, said in a telephone interview.

The HA turbine, a high-efficiency unit that’s as big as a Winnebago and weighs as much as a Boeing Co. 747, is crucial for GE. The power division, the world’s largest gas-turbine maker, committed $2 billion to the HA’s development as Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt refocuses on industrial operations and sheds most of GE’s finance arm.

Simplified Structure

After the setbacks on the last H-class turbine, GE simplified the architecture in the new version, scrapping a steam-cooling mechanism in favor of air. GE has targeted sales of as many as 500 by 2030. Turbines also are the focus of the energy business being acquired from France’s Alstom SA.

Financial terms of the latest orders, from New Jersey’s PSEG Power and South Korea’s GS Power, aren’t being disclosed. Each deal involves one HA turbine and associated machinery to equip a power plant, Atwell said.

GE is also getting interest from prospective customers that could yield sales once new power plants are built, Atwell said. The company has more than 60 such “technical selections,” he said.

In the deal with PSEG Power, GE’s equipment will be installed at the $600 million Sewaren 7 plant in New Jersey, replacing four steam turbines that have been in use for about 70 years. The 540-megawatt facility will be able to power more than 500,000 homes.

“We’ll generate about the same amount of power for about half the fuel,” Atwell said.

The GS Power sale, including one HA unit and a steam turbine, is the second such agreement since July between the South Korean company and Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE. The two orders will support a 935-megawatt plant near Seoul that will be used to heat about 1.9 million homes.

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