By Ryan Semerad
Last Wednesday, Sept. 28, Union hosted its Annual Business Campaign breakfast to show its gratitude to local businesses for donating to its local scholarship fund.
The fund directly impacts the lives of local students by providing them with funds to attend Union. Vice President for College Relations Stephen Dare said “[businesses] are directly investing in potential employees and customers.”
In addition to giving thanks to the local leaders, Union also had the unique privilege of bringing in the general manager of General Electric’s Energy Storage Technologies, Prescott Logan, to give the keynote address.
Logan’s talk was the first time he spoke about the actual day-to-day operations of the new battery plant and its business model to a non-GE audience.
“GE’s building a battery business—the factory is one-third of the operation,” said Logan.
Logan said that the idea to develop a new kind of battery was at first intended a means to improving the efficiency of GE’s locomotive business. The idea then grew when he and his team looked at the broader opportunity.
The new battery GE will be manufacturing is tentatively called Durathon, and while some have already been built, the launch date for the batteries is officially slated for January 2012.
The factory that is being built in Schenectady is going to be 220,000 square feet, and will represent a $160 million investment over four years that is expected to bring in as many as 300 jobs in production by 2015.
In his presentation, Logan made it clear that this is not assembly-line work requiring parts to be shipped in from other companies.
“This is real manufacturing. New technology is going into the process as well as the product,” said Logan.
The new batteries will be marketed towards telecommunications, data centers and utilities. The batteries are expected to be 99 percent recyclable, unaffected by extreme temperatures, and more efficient than traditional batteries.
“The battery fits best in emerging markets, where there is presently little to no general source of electricity,” Logan explained.
When everything is up and running, he expects the battery plant in Schenectady to be shipping its products all over the world.
One of the ABC scholarship recipients, Samieh Atif ‘13, seemed impressed by Logan’s presentation and work.
“I don’t expect that kind of thing to happen in Schenectady,” Atif said. “I think it’s exciting.”
Presently, the factory is 80 percent built and the technology for the manufacturing process and for the batteries themselves is about 90 percent developed, according to Logan.
“[In the end] success for us is to turn [battery manufacturing] into the next billion dollar business,” he said.