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Recent announcements from GE and Siemens appear to have dampened hopes of a revival of fortunes in the power industry. Bad news, it seems, is everywhere: The gas turbine (GT) market is experiencing heavy pressure from the renewable sector. Wind power and solar are going from strength to strength. Both are taking business away from GT manufacturers. If that wasn’t enough, battery power is now emerging as yet another threat. Backed by grants and legislative mandates, batteries are advancing rapidly in terms of technology, battery life and cost.
Gas engines, too, are seizing market share from GTs in the lower end of the market. But their manufacturers can sense more opportunity and are moving upwards, collaborating on the design of combined cycle plants which use multiple gas engines to provide power plants of 100 MW and more. The industry response? Siemens announces lay offs of 7,000; GE says it will lay off more than 10,000. Predictions of tough times and slumping sales prevail. Layoffs and bleak forecasts are one thing. But what appears to be missing is any GT- focused strategy to combat competitiveness from elsewhere.
Having just returned from the Baker Hughes (formerly GE Oil & Gas) conference in Italy, I was briefed on how the NovaLT GT is being sold successfully into the power industry. The company conceived it as an oil & gas product to drive compressors. Yet its light footprint and other features have led to a surge in sales for power. This got me thinking. It may be time for the industry to step back and reevaluate its place in the power market. What does the market actually need and want? Baker Hughes is succeeding with the NovaLT. MHPS is making serious headway with its J-class machines. Both represent wins in the marketplace. There are surely others. The MHPS machine is a large-scale GT, while the NovaLT serves the lower-end. So any pronouncements about “the end of the large frame market,” or there being “no hope for small turbines” appear to be little more than defeatist talk. How about we find out what the market really needs and develop steps to provide it rapidly?