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GE Renewable Energy Trek

by Konstantin Damm, MBA’13 (1/13/12)
Konstantin Damm, MBA’13

Johnson MBA students traveled to GE headquarters in Schenectady, NY in December for a series of talks about the current and future renewable industry environment as well as to learn about GE's Renewable Energy Leadership Program (RELP).

Again this year the Johnson Energy Club organized its annual trek to GE's Renewable headquarters. Johnson first year MBA students along with Cornell public administration and engineering students traveled to their headquarters located in Schenectady, NY on December 2nd for a series of talks about the current and future renewable industry environment as well as to learn about GE's Renewable Energy Leadership Program (RELP). RELP is GE's premier rotational program that allows MBA students to experience different renewable energy related assignments for two years after graduation before focusing on a specific renewable energy career within GE.


The industry specific presentations commenced with John Renehan (MBA '07) who provided an overview of GE Power & Water (the division to which GE's renewable energy business belongs) and discussed his four rotations within RELP.  Rich Reno, the head of GE's Wind business, then discussed developments related to GE's wind turbine offerings. GE intends to capture market share moving forward by releasing an updated 1.6MW nameplate capacity/100m hub height turbine that has some of the highest capacity factors (GE claims 55%) in the industry. GE is also starting a joint venture with Chinese producer Harbin to enter the fastest growing renewable market – China.


Danielle Talk, Rich's equivalent for GE's Solar business, discussed the latest solar photovoltaic developments. GE divested its crystalline silicon solar PV business in 2009 and aims to enter the industry again by offering cost competitive (power plants are projected to cost $0.11/kWh) and efficient (~16% conversion) thin film cadmium telluride photovoltaic cells. These cells will be manufactured in a new, US based, $600M plant. Diarmaid Mulholland concluded the talks by presenting on GE's offerings for the wind service industry. GE's Wind service offerings focus on increasing existing turbine's capacity factors. Diarmaid mentioned that even a 1% increase in capacity factors across all US GE wind turbines would generate an additional $300M in revenues for its clients across the turbine's lifecycle. GE aims to achieve such increases by offering software upgrades, such as WindBoost, and physically extending the length of existing blades. The payback period on such investments is usually 3 to 5 years.


The trek concluded with an opportunity to pose questions to current RELP fellows. Lauren Thirer (MBA '09) also joined the panel and discussed her experience in the rotations. Cornell students returned to campus later that night knowing a little bit more about the renewable energy industry and GE's strategic approach in the industry.