Blair Simmons
Dean Of GE Energy plant manager — Pensacola, Florida

At the GE Energy Pensacola plant, we assemble the GE 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbine. This unit is the workhorse of GE’s wind turbine offerings and is the market leader in that segment. Pensacola has delivered 8,000 units since production started in 2002. This year we added GE’s new 2.5 MW turbine to our production and we are proud that our plant was chosen to be GE’s first plant in the Americas to produce it.

Pensacola’s accomplishments in safety, fulfillment and quality were key factors in the plant earning the privilege of introducing the 2.5 MW turbine to the U.S. market. We had an on-time delivery rate of 99 percent in 2009, and were kept from 100 percent only by delays in incoming material — making up most of the lost time ourselves. We have also significantly improved the reliability of the 1.5 MW turbines installed since GE purchased this business eight years ago, and now those turbines are available to run 98 percent of the time — the highest rate in the industry. We are also proud of our industry-leading safety record. Safety always comes first here. We believe that nobody comes to work to get hurt, and there should never be a day that we don’t think about our employees’ safety, learn from our mistakes and take responsibility for our actions. With that approach, we have a much better accident and injury rate than when we first opened the facility, and now it is five times better than the industry standard. There is a lot of well-earned pride in our abilities, and our employees at the Pensacola plant are excited to be leading the introduction of the 2.5 MW wind turbine.

While internally we have a great amount of pride in what we do, there is also a lot of pride within the local community. Despite the fact that we do not have the opportunity to market our turbines locally (wind turbines are not a good match for Florida hurricanes), Floridians are delighted to see how GE’s innovative skills and technologies are making a positive impact throughout the United States. To emphasize our commitment to wind energy both at the plant and in the local community, we placed a banner over the plant nicknaming it “Pensacola Pride.”

Going forward, GE’s work in renewable energy will continue to be critical to the company and the U.S. economy. Even in this recession, GE has not slowed down its investment in this area, both from an R&D standpoint and from a business expansion standpoint. For instance, we just opened a $45 million Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady, New York — one of two global facilities that provide continuous monitoring and diagnostic services for GE’s installed base of wind turbines and solar power electronics. GE also recently invested in an R&D facility near Detroit, Michigan — and one of its focus areas is on improving the material, design and manufacture of renewable energy technology.

Energy legislation is a key issue for state and federal government, and GE is helping to establish sound renewable energy policy because it is important to the future of the U.S. economy. Green jobs are valuable jobs, and renewables are critical to decreasing the use of fossil fuel and eliminating tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Throughout the recession, the Pensacola plant has continued to focus on fulfillment and quality and doing the best we can to protect jobs, uphold our reputation and contribute to GE and our community. As the economy begins to turn around, Pensacola will do its part to see that GE is positioned to lead.