GE will build a Solid Oxide fuel cell plant in Saratoga County, NY to take advantage of research performed at GE's R& D Center in Niskayuna according to the Business Review.  GE has indicated that the goal is to use natural gas in a cleaner way to generate electricity using fuel cells-which may be particularly valuable given the recent boom in natural gas drilling and the high cost of producing hydrogen fuel in other ways. 

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GE is calling its new venture a Start Up business and indicates that a breakthrough in Solide Oxide fuel cell technology has allowed it to pursue a Pilot Plant producing Fuel Cells that reach an unprecedented 65 percent efficiency improved 

to 95 percent when waste heat is utilized. Instead of expensive platinum, stainless steel has been substituted thereby lowering costs. Ceramic materials are also said to be utilized between layers of the fuel cell stack while thermal spray technology developed for the aerospace industry by GE also has a role in depositing the anode and cathode of the fuel cell.  Hydrogen fuel is heated to 1500 degrees farenheit and thus it not suprising that GE's thermal spray technology originally developed for the aerospace industry has a role.

 It is interesting to note that GE has not been a leader in Fuel Cell patents according to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index.   Fuel Cell patents have been dominated by automakers as depicted below 

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GE has led in both solar patents and wind patents over the last few years but has not made much of a dent in granted fuel cell patents.  Between 2010 and 2013 GE had 17  fuel cell patents according to the CEPGI and 63 such patents overall.  In contrast GE has had 548 wind patents over the same period and 55 solar patents

A breif review of GE's fuel cell patents reveals that perhaps numbers aren't everything as several of these patents relate to Solid Oxide technology, ceramics and  thermomechanical sealing of fuel cell stack manifolds-the exact technologies cited in GE's press release as being essential for the new pilot plant. 

As described previously, Fuel Cells may finally be at the point of commercialization both in the auto industry --with several new fuel cell cars not only on the horizion but actually set reach dealer's showrooms soon-- and elsewhere.  Further, there is talk of fuel cells being the perfect complement to solar technologies with companies such as SolarCity and Sunpower being indicated as potential partners for fuel cell companies such as Plug Power.  Sunpower placed second in solar patents last year as depicted below and as depicted above Plug Power has a treasure trove of patents but much of them are not recently granted. 

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Solar City (and new acquisition Silevo) have several patents with more likely to come as  Solar City is said to be building a huge solar panel factory in Buffalo according to Elon Musk and more research is thus likely on the way resulting in more innovation and more patents.

Construction has already begun on GE's new Fuel Cell plant. This is another example of research being performed at the GE's Gobal R& D Center in Niskayuna being brought to life in New York's Capital Region. A battery plant opened few years back and produces DURATHON batteries while GE is set to work with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on the Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium in developing silicon carbide based semiconductor devices.  Also, a Digital X-ray manufacturing facility was located in North Greenbush based on research done in Niskayuna.  

 A lot seems to be coming together in New York relative to cleantech technologies and due to the creativity of New York  inventors.   A search of the US Patent Office's database already reveals that GE's inventors alone have  over 300 patents granted   just so far  this year having an inventor from New York-and the year is only half over.  These patents are in various areas including energy, cleantech, energy storage, medical imaging, electricity generation, and nuclear technologies, among others.