GE To Build Battery Plant In New York

General Electric Co. will manufacture advanced batteries for locomotives and heavy equipment at a new plant in upstate New York, creating 350 jobs.

NISKAYUNA, N.Y. (AP) -- General Electric Co. plans to boost its profile in the battery business with a new plant in upstate New York that will produce high-tech sodium cells to power locomotives and heavy equipment.

GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt and New York Gov. David Paterson, in an announcement Tuesday at GE's research center, said the factory at a site to be chosen in the Albany, N.Y., area will create 350 skilled manufacturing jobs.

The sodium batteries -- salt and nickel housed in state-of-the-art cells -- will be used in GE's hybrid locomotive. Immelt said the battery's high storage capacity also will make them attractive to industries reliant on heavy service vehicles or backup storage, like mining companies and utilities.

Immelt said the move complements GE's recent $30 million investment in lithium-ion battery manufacturer A123Systems of Fairfield, Conn. He said the actions will give GE a competitive advantage in what is "a wide open playing field right now."

"We think the markets for this will ultimately be huge, and we want to lead, and we think we can lead right here in upstate New York," Immelt said.

The initial investment is $100 million. New York state is giving GE $15 million in grants, and Immelt said the company will soon apply for stimulus money from the U.S. Department of Energy. He would not say how much the company will seek from the federal government.

Immelt said the project will go ahead even without the federal aid, but he said the stimulus money would speed up development.

GE expects to break ground on the plant this year and be in full production by 2011.

The action by GE dovetails with the Paterson administration's efforts to position New York as a leader in green energy. Paterson recently announced the investment of $25 million in a consortium that will promote the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle business in New York.

On Tuesday, the governor said he wants to press New York's early advantage in battery technology.

"I would like to make New York state the capital of the global clean energy economy," Paterson said.

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