Alstom’s first shipment of a GT24 gas turbine-which is more efficient than turbines of the past-was an important milestone in the company’s ramp-up phase and represents part of the company’s diverse portfolio.
“The facility of Chattanooga was always planned not to be just a nuclear facility,” Lawrence Quinn, president of Alstom Chattanooga Turbines LLC, said Tuesday morning. “It was planned to look after the fossil retrofit, nuclear retrofit, gas turbine and even the hydro business.”
Inaugurated in June of 2010, Alstom’s Chattanooga power systems manufacturing facility provides new and retrofit equipment for nuclear, steam, gas and hydroelectric power plants.
The plant represents an investment in excess of $300 million that will create up to 350 high-quality jobs at full capacity.
Currently, the plant employs about 270 people, and leaders are planning to ramp up to about 320 by early next year.
Tuesday morning, crews launched the company’s first GT24 gas turbine via barge, which will stop in New Orleans before going to Mexico’s El Sauz CFE combined cycle power plant.
In 2011, Alstom was awarded the contract to supply a new GT24 gas turbine to replace three existing gas turbines and retrofit a steam turbine, thus extending the lifetime of the El Sauz plant by 25 years and delivering a 20 percent boost in operational efficiency.
Quinn said that, looking forward, he thinks Alstom will have a “complete mix” of nuclear, natural gas and hyrdo components.
And Patrick Fetzer, regional vice president of Alstom’s gas power plant business in North America, said he expects the natural gas fired power generation market in the United States to grow “substantially” in the coming years.
“Our investment in Chattanooga is a reflection of our confidence in the U.S market, and our first gas turbine shipment marks the readiness of this facility to become a manufacturing hub for Alstom gas turbines in the U.S.,” he said.
Quinn said he expects a “major workload” ahead for nuclear plants, but efficiency in output is needed.
“We are a world leader on fossil also,” he said. “Although we don’t see new fossil generation coming online, what we do see is the customer investing heavily to make sure they have more efficient and environmentally friendly plants, and that is good business for us.”
TVA leaders recently discussed the need for a balanced portfolio.
Their goal is to have three equal 30 percent parts of nuclear, coal and gas, with hydro to supplement the last 10 percent.
TVA recently had a setback on its Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 project.