GE buys company that turns waste heat into power

General Electric boosts its power generation business by acquiring Calnetix Power Solutions, which makes a small-scale system for turning industrial heat into usable electricity.

You got heat? General Electric wants to make power out of it.

GE on Friday said it has acquired Calnetix Power Solutions, a privately held company which makes systems for converting heat from industrial equipment into electricity. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

The company will be integrated with GE's current Austria-based Jenbacher gas engine business, which makes engines that run on different gases, including natural gas and biogas.

The Calnetix waste-heat-to-power machine at a lumber facility in Italy which uses heat from a biomass boiler to generate electricity.
The Calnetix waste-heat-to-power machine at a lumber facility in Italy which uses heat from a biomass boiler to generate electricity. Calnetix Power Solutions

Calnetix's system is designed specifically for small-scale power generation at places, such as factories which give off a lot of unused heat. It can also be used to make electricity from gas engines, such as landfills that capture and burn biogas or at a concentrating solar power plant.

To turn heat into electricity, Calnetix uses an Organic Rankine Cycle where heat and pressure turn a working fluid, which is a refrigerant, into a vapor. That vapor expands to turn a turbine, which drives a generator to make electricity. The vapor is cooled, turned back into a liquid, and circulated in pipes through the system again.

The company says that improvements in the basic cycle allow it to turn heat as low as 250 degrees Fahrenheit into 125 kilowatts of electricity which can be used on site or fed into the grid.

GE projects that the market for small-scale waste-to-power technologies will be $1 billion and grow rapidly, particularly in Europe where much of the technology development is centered. "Alternative energy sources such as waste heat are growing in importance given the urgent global need for more efficient use of our limited resources," said Steve Bolze, president and CEO of GE Power & Water, in a statement.

There are a number of companies looking at industrial waste heat as an energy source , including companies using the Organic Rankine Cycle . GE said that its acquisition gives it a commercial product and accompanying intellectual property.

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