GE Canada

The Canadian subsidiary of General Electric Co. is teaming up with the Ontario government to build a $40-million innovation centre that could help large data centres by making smart grids and energy delivery more efficient.

GE Canada is building the 200,000-square-foot Grid IQ Innovation Centre, which is expected to open in July 2012, in Markham, Ont. The energy giant announced the construction plans on Wednesday and is being supported by a $7.9 million grant from the Government of Ontario.

Juan Macias, general manager of smart substations business for GE’s digital energy division, said the smart grid tech centre will focus on developing and building out energy modernization technologies. It will also attempt to solve major energy issues such as disruption of supply and reliability of service.

He said the innovation centre will impact not only the delivery of energy solutions for utility companies, but it will also benefit consumers of power including industrial, enterprise and individual users.

“It will address all-around reliability of power supply and will improve the reliability and efficiency to large data centres,” Macias said. “It’s about controlling and automating energy distribution in order to improve reliability.”

The innovation centre will also feature a global testing and simulation laboratory, the company said.

Currently, GE designs and delivers systems that help large energy consumers to detect a fault in their primary energy source and transfer that power supply to a secondary source. The company also has products that provide energy management systems for large installations to give these organizations better insight into how and where they are consuming power.

Macias expects more of these types of solutions to be designed and developed at the new Markham, Ont., facility. The building, he added, will become the global centre for GE’s work in distributed automation and industrial energy management solutions.

GE Canada will also be looking to fill 146 new jobs in the new building. The positions will primarily be engineering workers, but the company will also be looking to hire some software and hardware developers.

The innovation centre project builds on an existing partnership between GE and the province signed in 2009. The agreement was signed between the two parties to encourage long-term investment within the province and establish new centres of technology and advanced manufacturing facilities.

Sandra Pupatello, the province’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, said at the launch event that the partnership is important to creating jobs in high-growth sectors of the economy. She added that the initiative would help Ontario in its standing as a global player in clean technologies.

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