GE Expands U.S. Green-Energy Production

Labor agreements connected with New York State and Kentucky plants clarify national and multinational strategies pursued by company

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According to a report in the New York Times, General Electric will build a 350-employee factory in Schenectady, N.Y., to make high-density batteries for diesel-electric locomotives, and a 420-employee factory in Lexington, Ky., that will make hybrid-electric water heaters—a product now acquired from China. As a quid pro quo, the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America agreed to accept a two-year wage freeze at the two plants and a lower wage tier for new employees; GE promised to not move any of the factories' operations overseas for two years.

In June, GE announced plans to build a 1,100-employee, $100-million research center near Detroit. CEO Immelt said that GE hoped to (re?)-insource some of the R&D it now does outside the United States. Elaborating in a recent speech in Detroit, Immelt said the United States should learn from China, which is trying to build an advanced economy without sacrificing old-fashioned manufacturing prowess.

That makes more sense, to this blogger anyway, than the confusing and confused rendition of GE's U.S. versus its global responsibilities that Immelt published in London's Financial Times several weeks ago.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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