GE Patents New Tower Design for Wind Turbines

General Electric Company, headquartered in Fairfield, CT, is a renowned international conglomerate that is involved with many industries, including energy generation and technology infrastructure. General Electric has been a large player in the wind energy generation industry in the past few years, and IPWatchdog recently profiled this in the Earth Day version of our Companies We Follow column. Recently, news reports have indicated that GE plans to become even more involved in the oil and gas industry, especially with fracking technologies.

The company’s robust research and development is often the subject of patents and patent applications published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. This week, we profile some of General Electric’s most intriguing patent applications, especially those that pertain to smarter electrical and fuel systems.

One application describes a system of using devices to communicate fluctuating electricity costs in the case of a smart electrical grid. Another application would protect a system of monitoring travel conditions that affect fuel efficiency on trains. A third application we cover here describes improvements to wet gas compressors to reduce erosion within the compressor.

Energy generation and energy efficient systems are another major focus for GE. An official patent awarded recently to the company protects a new tower base design for wind turbines that are much easier to transport for installation. A final patent application covered here would offer General Electric the right to protect a system of separating carbon byproducts from gas streams within a carbon fuel system.

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Tower Base Section of a Wind Turbine, a Wind Turbine and a System for Mounting a Tower 
U.S. Patent No. 8443557

Larger wind turbines can create more electricity than smaller turbines because a greater surface area when contacting wind energy results in more energy generation. However, as the turbine becomes larger, the foundation that needs to support it and withstand lateral stresses must be constructed larger. Both T-flanges and tower base rings that are used with smaller wind turbines become cumbersome to transport effectively as they grow larger to support bigger turbines.

General Electric was awarded a patent this month from the USPTO that protects a new design for a tower base section that addresses these engineering and transportation concerns. The new base design involves a T-flange in use along with a tubular side wall to house the T-flange. An adapter is installed around the tubular side wall and provides added support for a smaller tower base ring.

Claim 1 of this General Electric patent provides protections for:

“A wind turbine comprising: a tower base section comprising a tubular side wall and a flange portion, the flange portion comprising an inner radius and an outer radius and being configured as a T-flange, the tubular side wall being located closer to the outer radius than to the inner radius; and an adapter arranged outside the tubular side wall, the adapter comprising a retaining portion defining a first bottom surface pressing from above on the flange portion, and a fastening portion extending radially outward from the retaining portion, the fastening portion being configured to be arranged on a foundation body arranged below the tower base section, the retaining portion forming a shoulder configured to be arranged on the flange portion.”

Method and Apparatus for Optimizing a Train Trip using Signal Information
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130131898

A train operator keeps a locomotive moving safely on the tracks by operating the brakes and other components of the train that affect travel. The operator’s positions is a specialized one and usually requires years of experience to perform the job very well. However, although train operators could operate the railroad car in response to weather and other conditions to improve fuel efficiency, those operators typically can’t get that information while onboard.

This General Electric patent application filing would protect a system of monitoring track segments in a railway network to produce information on current rail travel conditions. These conditions, which include weather, rail traffic, railcar weight and other characteristics, would be inputs for a software program that would analyze these parameters to determine fuel-efficient operation for the train. According to the application, this program could guide an operator’s decisions or control the components automatically.

Claim 1 of this patent application would protect, for General Electric:

“A system comprising: a first element for determining first travel parameters of a first vehicle traveling along plural route segments during a trip in a route network; a second element for determining second travel parameters of a second vehicle relative to the route segments to be traversed by the first vehicle during the trip; and one or more processors for receiving the first travel parameters from the first element and the second travel parameters from the second element, the one or more processors also for determining a relationship between prior occupation of a first route segment in the plural route segments by the second vehicle and subsequent occupation of the same first route segment by the first vehicle based on the first and second travel parameters, wherein the one or more processors are configured to at least one of generate or modify a trip plan that designates a speed trajectory for the first vehicle to travel in the route network for the trip, wherein the speed trajectory is based on the relationship between the prior occupation of the first route segment by the second vehicle and the subsequent occupation of the same first route segment by the first vehicle.”

Expander and Method for CO2 Separation
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130125580

Carbon dioxide is one of the most prevalent byproducts of systems of energy generation that rely on the combustion of carbon-based fuels. Collecting the carbon dioxide before it can escape into the environment reduces the environmental impact of carbon fuels and can create carbon byproducts to be used in other processes. However, current methods of collecting carbon as a liquid or solid are rather expensive to operate because of the energy required.

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This system of separating CO2 from gas streams involved with fuel-based energy generation uses an expander to remove the carbon dioxide. An inlet introduces a gas stream into an expander and produces a CO2 rich stream and a CO2 lean stream. The expander then cools the carbon dioxide remaining in either stream to achieve liquid or solid carbon dioxide conversion.

As Claim 1 explains, General Electric has devised:

“An expander for separating carbon dioxide (CO2) from a gas stream, comprising: (a) a housing; (b) at least one rotating component disposed within the housing; (c) at least one inlet disposed in the housing, wherein the inlet is configured to receive the gas stream; (d) at least one first outlet disposed in the housing, wherein the first outlet is configured to discharge a COrich stream; and (e) at least one second outlet disposed in the housing, wherein the second outlet is configured to discharge a COlean stream; wherein the expander is configured to cool the gas stream such that a portion of COin the gas stream forms one or both of solid COand liquid CO2, and wherein the expander is further configured to separate at least a portion of one or both of solid COand liquid COfrom the gas stream to form the COrich stream and the COlean stream.”

Utility Powered Communications Gateway
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130121384

Smart grid technology in electricity systems helps both residents and businesses respond to demands in the electrical grid and conserve energy. During peak periods of electrical use, typically between 2 PM and 7 PM, it costs more to produce electricity because of excessive demands, even though the cost is the same throughout the day. Smart grid technologies could be more responsive to energy production costs by allowing for fluctuations in energy prices throughout the day. In-home networks that communicate with the smart grid could reduce energy consumption based on preset electrical load settings which would affect appliance operation. For example, a dryer could have the heat turned from high to medium in response to increased electricity demands on the grid or a fluctuation in energy price.

This General Electric patent application seeks to improve the digital communication between the in-home network and the smart grid electrical network. The system would use a low power Zigbee transceiver to transmit information over a home-area network and a high power advance metering infrastructure (AMI) transceiver to collect information from the smart grid. A processor connecting the two transceivers would aid in the transmission of important data from the smart grid to an individual home-area network.

Claim 1 of this patent application describes General Electric’s development of:

“A method comprising: receiving, by a first device, information communicated from one or more first networks, wherein the first device is a low power device; and transmitting, by a second device, at least part of the information over a second network, wherein the second device is a high power device and wherein the first device and the second device are located within an electrical meter used to meter a first power source and said first device and second device receive power from a single power supply connected to an electrical power source separate from the first power source.”

Wet Gas Compression Systems with a Thermoacoustic Resonator
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130121812

Wet gas compression systems operate with fuels that contain a liquid component, like gasoline. These liquid gasses can form droplets while traveling through a compressor. If these droplets hit certain areas of the compressor, such as an end wall or an impeller, erosion may result. Wet gas compressors currently include some methods for removing liquid droplets from a gas stream to reduce erosion, but these methods are wasteful of energy.

This wet gas compression system utilizes a thermoacoustic resonator with a hot heat exchanger, a cold heat exchanger and a regenerator which work to reduce the presence of liquid droplets. As wet gas travels through a pipe in the resonator, the hot heat and cold heat exchangers create a temperature differential that causes the regenerator to produce acoustic waves. The acoustic waves react with the wet gas mixture to break up liquid droplets, reducing erosion.

As Claim 1 explains, General Electric wants to gain legal protective status for:

“A wet gas compression system for a wet gas flow having a number of liquid droplets therein, the wet gas compression system comprising: a pipe; a compressor in communication with the pipe; and a thermoacoustic resonator in communication with the pipe so as to break up the liquid droplets in the wet gas flow.”

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