GE gets $500M price tag for gas turbines in Texas

HOUSTON – General Electric’s new high-efficiency gas turbines, fired at temperatures 200 degrees hotter than an erupting volcano, will see their U.S. debut at two gas power plants near Houston and Dallas.

The New York industrial conglomerate said Monday it is getting paid more than $500 million to build four of its most advanced gas turbines and other equipment to power two of Exelon Corp.’s planned combined-cycle gas turbine units at its existing gas-fired plants in Texas. Combined-cycle units are more flexible than plants that rely only on gas or coal. 

GE’s new 440,000 horsepower gas turbines, each as powerful as about 1,000 Ferraris, use advanced air-cooling technologies to cut into electricity costs and carbon output, features that the Chicago power generator says will make its Texas power plants “among the cleanest, most efficient” units in the United States.

“Being mindful of increased water efficiency in drought-prone Texas, the new units will be cooled with air instead of water,” Exelon said in a written statement Monday. GE is also building two steam turbines and six generators for Exelon.

The new combined-cycle units will each add 1,000 megawatts to the Texas power grid, which means they can light up 2 million Texas homes combined. The four turbines combined could save Exelon up to $32 million a year in power costs.

Gas turbines, used in everything from oil and gas production to energy transportation to refining, took center stage in Siemen AG’s $6.5 billion buyout offer last week for Houston’s Dresser-Rand Group, a maker of turbines and compressors. Siemens, angling to get a better foothold in U.S. oil and gas like its rival GE, cited Dresser-Rand’s lower-power gas turbines used in oil production as one of the key attractions of the deal.

GE’s gas turbines start up and ramp up faster and turn down more efficiently than other turbines on the market, meaning Exelon will be able “to deliver power quickly when it is needed and ramp down when it is not,” said Victor Abate, president and CEO of power generation products at GE Power and Water.

“We have invested more than $1 billion in our latest H-class technology to deliver the most cost-effective, dispatchable power to consumers,” Abate said.

GE will begin building the equipment next year, and are expected to add 1,000 temporary engineering and construction jobs, as well as 17 permanent jobs at Exelon’s sites at Wolf Hollow near Dallas and Colorado Bend near Houston. It’s the new gas turbines first appearance in the United States. It is building a few others for buyers in Japan, Russia and elsewhere.

GE said the turbines “feature modular constructability for a shorter installation schedule, a real benefit in Texas given concerns about skilled manpower availability.”