General Electric will acquire Converteam, a company that specializes in technology that converts electricity to mechanical energy and vice versa, for a whopping $3.2 billion to improve its power transmission and management network.
The deal is not specifically a clean-technology play because it is focused on improving the efficiency of transmitting power from oil- and other fossil-fuel-based power generation methods. Companies like GE have had to rely on less conventional sources for oil and other fossil fuels, so there’s a lot of potential to save power companies money by improving the amount of energy it can ship from one place to the next without losing any.
Converteam, for example, manufactures power drivers for low- and medium-voltage power sources — which convert electricity into some kind of mechanical energy, like a turbine or a motor. That’s only a small part of Converteam’s massive portfolio, which is why GE was willing to pay $3.2 billion for the company, said Steve Minnihan, an analyst with clean technology firm Lux Research.
“They can help smooth out the small imbalances and a lot of the unhealthy levels of reactive power that come out of a solar farm,” he said. “GE stressed the importance of this acquisition for its oil and gas sector, but looking beyond that, it can work for wind turbines and solar panels too.”
That’s because most researchers and companies have already figured out how to pick up energy from renewable sources like solar and wind power, said Matt Feinstein, an analyst with Lux Research. There’s still a lot of room to improve the efficiency of energy capture devices like the photovoltaic cells in solar panels — but the most commercial opportunity lies in actually getting that energy to consumers.
“You can look at GE overall being an energy player, look at renewables and we’ve mostly figured out how to get energy from renewables.” he said. “We’ve got all the sources of energy, we’re not harnessing new things, it’s about the management and the more efficient harnessing.”