Mon Jul 18th, 2005 at 12:27:11 PM EST
The wind power industry has had a tough history, with many business and technical failures. Extracting electrical power from the wind requires a tough combination of technology, development capital, and access to the power market--all while operating under sometimes-ambivalent government regulation. But the wind industry may be finally undergoing a real step towards maturity as large energy companies reconsider their involvement.
According to the latest issue of the IEEE Spectrum magazine, "After largely ignoring alternative energy for most of its existence, GE has jumped in headfirst.
"Over the past five years, the company, based in Fairfield, Conn., has begun manufacturing wind turbines and photovoltaics, invested in hydrogen fuel cells, and become a leader in the development of gasification equipment that could double the efficiency of coal-fired power plants and even capture their greenhouse gases. Pulling all those strands together in a high-profile speech delivered in Washington, D.C., on 9 May, GE's chief executive, Jeffrey R. Immelt, unfurled what the company is calling its "ecomagination" initiative. Immelt described it as "a growth strategy, driven by our belief that applying technology to solving problems is good business....We are launching ecomagination not because it is trendy or moral but because it will accelerate our growth and make us more competitive."
As a global industrial powerhouse, GE brings to the wind power market a strong combination of technical expertise, capital, access to existing power supply markets, and government access. This could lead to a considerable realignment in the industry, as smaller players consolidate and as political opposition is overcome by the weight of the big players.
"GE is leaning particularly hard into the wind market, the strongest of its clean energy businesses, and it is redrawing the industry in the process. With its financial might, power engineering connections, and global reach, the company has set off a scramble for market share in the consolidating wind industry."