GE slashes emissions for refrigerator manufacturing

Conversion to new process will help cut greenhouse gas emissions for Alabama site by up to 80 percent.

I'm filing this one under the heading of good news this week for the state of Alabama, amid the devastation caused by those unreal tornadoes. This is the crux: The city of Decatur is first GE manufacturing site that will use new technology to install insulation for the company's top-freezer refrigerators. The new process literally cuts the facility's emissions by up to 99 percent, according to the company.

GE Appliances and Lighting has transitioned to cyclopentante, a foam-blowing agent, at its refrigeration plant in Decatur, Alabama.

Here's the skinny: GE is now using cyclopentane, which is a foam-blowing agent that helps it blow insulation into the doors and cases of the refrigerators. The models we are talking about the 16-, 17-, and 18-cubic-foot top-freezer products.

By using this process, the facility figures it will cut its equivalent carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 metric tons every year. That is roughly the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed each year by 100,000 acres of forest in the southeastern United States. That change means that this particular facility will be able to cut its overall annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent. On the consumer side, GE said the new process makes the refrigerators themselves more energy-efficient.

GE plans to invest roughly $59 million in this Decatur facility over time; using it as a test site for product innovation related to its top-freezer refrigerators and for sustainable manufacturing processes. Over time, these investments will translate into the retention of approximately 1,000 jobs. Another fun fact: By 2014, GE said that it will offer more U.S.-made refrigerators than any other full-line appliance maker.

Two other facilities are being targeted for conversion to the cyclopentane process: its side-by-side plant in Bloomington, Ind., and its bottom-freezer facility in Louisville, Ky. The conversions are anticipated by 2014.

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