GE Power is set to convert its 242MW coal-fired Birchwood power facility in King George, Virginia, into a steam plant services innovation centre.

The facility currently generates sufficient clean energy to supply more than 240,000 households.

Once converted, the building will be used to demonstrate how the latest GE technologies can significantly enhance the efficiency and flexibility of coal-fired steam power plants, while reducing carbon emissions.

GE Power's chief digital officer Ganesh Bell said: “We are seeing rapid adoption of lower carbon electricity generation the world over. However, the evolution to a lower emission energy future is still likely to take a generation or more.

“In the interim, the innovation centre at Birchwood will enable us to demonstrate how to make coal a dramatically more efficient, flexible, and lower emission fuel source through the use of advanced engineering, software, and analytics."

"We are seeing rapid adoption of lower carbon electricity generation the world over."

GE Power Services' president and chief executive officer (CEO) Paul McElhinney said: “Transitioning the Birchwood power facility into a GE steam plant services innovation centre aligns with the Powering Efficiency COE initiative and builds on GE’s commitment to modernising the steam power industry.

“We are investing in this innovation centre to not only better the plant itself but to illustrate to the world what gains are possible in this sector when you combine digital and hardware solutions with technical know how.”

With completion expected in August this year, installation of GE's advanced digital solutions will enable plant operations and maintenance (O&M) technicians new opportunities for process and productivity enhancements by leveraging machine and sensor data, analytics, and boiler optimisation technologies across the plant.

The company will make upgrades from the fuel supply, within the boiler, and across the balance of plant with an aim to incrementally impact efficiency, flexibility, and availability, while cutting down emissions, outage, and maintenance costs.