This is the second 9HA to be manufactured at Belfort. The first was shipped to the USA last year for trials at GE’s Greenville full-load off-grid test facility, where it performed "flawlessly", says GE, undergoing 40 fired starts and operating for over 200 fired hours. According to GE, at Greenville, engines are subjected to an "operating envelope larger than the variances an entire fleet of turbines would experience in the field" and "one unit running for 200 hours in the test facility is more valuable than 500 units in the field running for a year."

At an event in May to mark completion of the 9HA at Belfort, Victor Abate, president and CEO, GE power generation products, was bullish about global prospects for natural gas in power generation and noted that for the first time ever, it was ahead of all other fuels in terms of new build ten- year projections, with more gas generating capacity to be added over the next decade than any other type worldwide – and H class the "fastest growing segment in the gas space."

Including Bouchain, GE says it has now received orders for 16 of its new all-air- cooled H class gas turbines (the other 15 being 4 x 7HA.02 for Exelon, 2 x 7HA.02 for TVA (Allen), 1 x 9HA.01 for Leverkusen, 1 x 9HA.01 for Kazan, 1 x 9HA.01 for Hokkaido and 6 x 7HA.01 for Chubu), while a further 53 (17 x 9HA and 36 x 7HA) have been what GE calls "technically selected" for projects worldwide, which is an indication of preference, although not a firm order.

Combined cycle plants, even H class machines such as that at Irsching in Germany, have been struggling in current European market conditions. But EDF argues that the Bouchain project, with its highly flexible HA gas turbine, still makes sense in terms of overall system optimisation and the accommodation of an increasing share of intermittent renewables on the system. It is also points out that it has to take a long term view in which the economics of gas generation could improve relative to other fuels, favouring a diversified portfolio.

Another consideration is that the project also enables EDF to retain what it sees as its leadership position in generating technology. "This is key to us", said Umberto Dotta, vice president of operations, EDF thermal generation and engineering division. "With the HA technology, EDF confirms its focus on innovation and its commitment to implement cutting-edge technologies."

The Bouchain HA project is in addition a key part of EDF’s efforts to modernise its fossil fired fleet, which represents about 11% of its installed capacity in France (the bulk being nuclear) but accounts for only about 2-3% of electricity production, reflecting its grid balancing role. The fossil modernisation programme has seen the closure of around ten old coal units, with the last coal firing unit at the Bouchain site closed down in April, and the commissioning of new combined cycle capacity, at Blenod (430 MW) in 2011 and at Martigues (2 x 465 MW) in 2012/2013 – all employing GE F class gas turbines.

Site work started on the Bouchain combined cycle project in 2012.