General Electric opens $170 million battery plant in NY image

General Electric, the largest U.S. conglomerate, has unveiled a new, $170-million battery factory on Tuesday. The world’s largest maker of electric turbines sees batteries as a key element for its energy business.

Back in 2009, when GE started working on the project, it wanted to invest $100 million, but recently the company stepped up investment in order to double the plant’s planned capacity. Located in Schenectady (NY), the factory will employ 450 people when it will reach full capacity. Also, the unit will serve as GE’s first step into a business that is expected to grow to $1 billion in the following years.

The sodium batteries built in Schenectady will be used in GE’s hybrid locomotive, heavy service vehicles and backup storage. General Electric’s first order of batteries came from Megatron Federal, a South-African engineering company that ordered 6,000 batteries for use as backup power supplies at telecommunications sites. GE didn’t reveal the value of the order.

The new plant was built with the help of New York State authorities, which contributed with $15 million, and local officials, which offered $5 million. General Electric’s energy division, which is also involved in making equipment used in oil and gas production, made up 30 percent of the group’s total revenue of $147.3 billion last year. It was also GE’s most profitable segment.