GE to develop more powerful wind turbine, invests in Aussie solar project

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General Electric Co., the world's biggest maker of electricity-generation equipment, plans to develop a wind turbine that generates as much as six times more power than its largest land-based model.

GE plans to spend $3 million from the U.S. Energy Department to design a direct-drive wind turbine that will generate as much as 15 megawatts using superconducting magnets and lightweight materials, the Fairfield-based company said in a statement. GE will decide how to build and commercialize the turbines in a second phase of the two-year project.

The company currently offers 1.5-megawatt and 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for onshore wind farms and a 4-megawatt model for offshore projects, according to its website.

Separately GE said it’s investing in a 10-megawatt solar project in Australia that will use panels from First Solar Inc.

GE and Verve Energy, a state-owned utility based in Perth, will each own half of the Greenough River Solar Farm, the company’s Stamford-based GE Energy Financial Services unit said in a press release. The plant will sell electricity to the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant that’s being built by Water Corp.

The Western Australian state government requires new desalination plants to use power generated by renewable sources and will provide $21.4 million for the project.

The solar farm, 31 miles southeast of Geraldton, Western Australia, is expected to be operational by mid-2012, according to the statement.

Shares of GE rose 19 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $16.31 in New York Stock Exchange trading on Wednesday.

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