Wide-ranging measures strengthening transmission facilities and promising additional reliability improvements
Two years after "Superstorm" Sandy, the New York Power Authority is making strides in bolstering New York's electricity infrastructure against future extreme weather events.
The measures include continuing refurbishments and upgrades to NYPA transmission facilities, which account for one-third of the state's high-voltage lines, and micro-grid feasibility studies on equipment applications for ensuring continued electricity service for such critical public entities as housing, hospitals, universities and prisons, in the event of disruptions on the statewide power grid.
"The magnitude of recent storms and their frequency underscore the importance of making sure that our power plants and transmission facilities are appropriately safeguarded against extreme weather conditions," said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. "Although our facilities held up well during 'Superstorm' Sandy and two prior storms, in 2011 - Irene and Lee - we have exercised an abundance of caution in evaluating and implementing additional measures to ensure that they are properly protected and can continue to be counted on no matter what Mother Nature may throw our way."
The Power Authority - New York's statewide public power utility - has proceeded at full steam with a multi-year transmission life extension and modernization program to modernize and strengthen aging transmission assets in Northern, Western and Central New York. The major capital investments NYPA is undertaking will enhance transmission versatility and performance - and resilience to severe weather conditions in the future.
Early priorities for the $726 million TLEM include upgrade of three switchyards - at the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt and Niagara hydropower plants, along with the Frederick R. Clark Energy Center in Marcy, plus five substations scattered across the northern half of the state, and reinforcement of older transmission structures. The overall transmission initiative also includes capital investments in smart-grid technologies to enhance situational awareness of the conditions of power lines to help quickly address matters that could threaten equipment and power service reliability.
Following a comprehensive evaluation of its clean natural gas-fueled power plants in New York City, NYPA also is engaged in a process to fortify those facilities against flooding. Infrastructure hardening has included providing diversified and redundant communications networks between the sites to ensure connectivity throughout severe weather and other emergencies. Internal procedures also were upgraded to ensure timely preparation and recovery for future events.
NYPA is evaluating with various parties possible retrofits to two existing cell towers in the vicinity of the authority's Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project in Schoharie County. Unreliable cell service in that area during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee highlighted the importance of NYPA's efforts, which will improve emergency response communications while also benefiting residents.
Micro-grid Feasibility Studies
The Power Authority is undertaking studies on the application of energy resiliency measures, including micro-grids, at the New York City Housing Authority Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn, Stony Brook University Research and Development Park on Long Island, and Empire State Plaza in Albany. A micro-grid, comprised of interconnected distributed energy resources that are closer to end users than conventional power sources, can operate in both a grid-connected or "island" mode, assuring continued high-level of electricity service even if there are problems on the power grid.
Upstate Strategic Fuel Reserve
Approximately 2.5 million gallons of gasoline and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel will be dispersed at strategic upstate locations to ensure sufficient fuel supplies for emergency responders, including transmission and repair crews, in the event of a power disruption. The fuel reserve, which is being established by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, is being supported by $10 million in funding by NYPA.