Tag Archives: General Electric

GE launches global smart grid innovation hub just north of Toronto

General Electric announced today its new $40-million Grid IQ Innovation Centre, which will be located in Markham, Ontario, and will include a global testing and product simulation laboratory. This announcement reinforces one of my recent Clean Break columns about Ontario becoming a global hub for smart grid innovation.

The 200,000-square foot facility, supported by a $7.9-million grant from the Ontario government, will open in summer 2012 and also be a centre for product development and manufacturing. About 146 new jobs will be created over the next four years as the facility opens and ramps up. GE’s Markham facility is already the company’s global hub for transmission and distribution technologies, so this announcement is an expansion of that commitment into the emerging market for smart grid technologies and services.

Specific activities planned for GE’s Grid IQ Innovation Centre include leading edge research and development in substation and distribution automation, electrical system protection and control, microgrid control, and cyber security,” according to the company. “GE’s Grid IQ Innovation Centre should become a Canadian destination for companies and countries seeking to upgrade their energy systems. A testing and simulation laboratory can be utilized by global utilities to learn how the Centre’s technologies can help their specific infrastructures with simulations and testing before deployment.”

The company said products researched and developed at the site will be manufactured there as well. In fact, an existing manufacturing facility GE has in Calgary will relocate to Markham.

Ontario is more than smart meters: at the smart grid core, we thrive

My Clean Break column from Friday revisits RuggedCom, the Woodbridge, Ontario-based maker of ruggedized communications equipment for the smart grid. The company celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, and is at the top of its game. Sales of routers and switches designed to operate in the harsh environment of the grid are climbing steadily, profits are also growing, and the company is on track to breaking $100 million a year in revenues, about two thirds of it coming from utility customers. In the market it plays in, the company has a commanding lead over big names such as Cisco and General Electric, and while it doesn’t get much attention from media south of the border, utility purchase managers know the company well. Investors are starting to catch on — in the past four months the company’s share price has shot up 70 per cent.

Ontario has done well with its deployment of smart meters, but it’s often forgotten that the smart grid is much more than that. Smart meters are on one edge of the grid — that is, attached to the customer, no different than a cable modem’s placement in the larger cable infrastructure. But the smart grid is about adding automation, communications and digital technologies throughout the entire grid, from generation to delivery to consumption, with the idea that the information collected and acted on can make the electricity system more efficient, adaptable, reliable and safer, while allowing for the introduction of new services and business models that ultimately benefit consumers.

RuggedCom supplies the core communications technology for transmission and distribution infrastructure. And it’s not alone in Ontario. General Electric decided back in the mid-1990s to consolidate its global operations around T&D equipment and today its facility in Markham is considered the company’s global smart grid headquarters with respect to core grid products. The equipment GE and RuggedCom are designing and manufacturing in Ontario, and exporting to countries such as China, may not be as interesting as smart meters, in-home displays, energy-management portals, or smart appliances, but they’re arguably more important to realizing the true potential of the smart grid.

And Ontario, it seems, is a hotspot for this kind of innovation. RuggedCom’s CEO, in fact, believes the company can grow to more than a billion dollars in revenues over its next 10 years. Canada’s next RIM? Wouldn’t be as as high profile, but certainly the potential for that kind of success is there.

Oil marches to $90 a barrel; GE purchases 25,000 electric vehicles for its global fleet… Good timing

That’s right, oil is making its trek toward $90 again, and once it busts through that all eyes will be on that psychological barrier — $100. Good timing then for General Electric, which announced today it has purchased 25,000 electric vehicles as part of a global revamping of its fleet (and the fleets of its customers). As the single-largest purchase of electric cars so far, and for the foreseeable future, GE is once again proving it can both push and pull the market. By 2015 EVs will represent half of GE’s global fleet, which sits at around 30,000 vehicles. Impressive. If you want to know why GE is so keen to embrace EVs, click here.

Earth2Tech reports that 12,000 of the EVs will be purchased from GM, and will include the Volt starting in 2011. About 10,000 of the vehicles will go to GE fleet customers.