GE opens wallet for wind, solar, industrial efficiency

GE Energy agrees to spend $3.2 billion for Converteam, giving GE efficient industrial motors and power controls for "mega trend" toward electrification.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica

General Electric Energy today said it has agreed buy power conversion company Converteam to boost GE's industrial and renewable-energy businesses.

GE Energy said it will pay $3.2 billion for 90 percent of Massey, France-based Converteam, which makes power control technologies including motors, generators, and power electronics.


With the acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter this year, GE is seeking to play into the "mega trend" toward using electricity in heavy industries, such as mining and pumping gas through pipelines, the company said. Converteam's equipment can reduce electricity of motors by one third, saving money and reducing greenhouse gases, GE said in a company blog. It values the global electrification and automation industry at over $30 billion.

Converteam's technology also complements GE's wind turbines and its nascent solar-photovoltaics business. Power controls allow solar inverters, for example, to precisely control the frequency of the electricity signal fed onto the grid. Similarly, the power controls can better convert the mechanical motion of wind turbines or hydropower facilities into grid-ready electricity.

The acquisition plays into GE's strategy of buying companies to expand its energy portfolio and boost revenue. In the past, company executives have singled out power controls, which convert between direct current and grid-ready alternating current, as an area where it needed more expertise. Like other companies, GE is seeking out products that improve the energy efficiency of commercial customers.