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Image courtesy of the New York Power Authority
Image courtesy of the New York Power Authority

New York Power Authority announces first milestone of $1.1 billion, 15-year project to extend operating life of largest power plant


Wed, Nov 18th 2020 09:25 am

First hydroelectric generator undergoes digitization

View video of ‘Next Generation Niagara’ modernization & digitization project

The New York Power Authority on Tuesday announced the first milestone of its 15-year modernization and digitization program to significantly extend the operating life of its Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, the largest source of clean electricity in New York state and one of the country's largest hydroelectric projects. As part of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant’s life extension and modernization program, called "Next Generation Niagara," 13 turbine units in the project's main generating facility will be upgraded. An outage to allow for the overhaul of the first unit began recently and digitization and modernization work commenced earlier this month.

“The digitization of the first hydroelectric generator at the Robert Moses Power Plant is significant, because it will set the course for work on the remaining 12 units,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “We have been planning this work for many months, but as the old saying goes, this is where the ‘rubber meets the road.’ ”

Next Generation Niagara” was launched in July 2019. “Next Gen” improvements include replacing aging equipment with the latest machinery reflecting advanced digital technologies for optimizing the hydroelectric project's performance. The initiative encompasses four major phases: 1) a comprehensive inspection of the Robert Moses plant's penstocks – the 485-foot tubes that are 24 feet in diameter along the face of the project that carry water from the forebay to the turbine generators; 2) refurbishing the 630-ton crane that enables mechanical work on the turbines; 3) upgrading and digitizing control systems; and building a new back-up control room; and 4) overhaul and/or replacement of mechanical components that have reached the end of their operating life.

This first major outage will allow for the installation of new digital controls on the first (one of 13) turbine generator unit and its connections to the control room and the plant’s substations. Panels in the control room corresponding to the turbine unit also will be digitized as part of the plant’s overall control room upgrade and redesign.

The turbine unit outage aligns with another outage for work on NYPA’s transmission life extension and modernization program taking place in the plant’s switchyard. This will allow new digital controls to be installed on the transformers and circuit breakers corresponding to the upgraded turbine. (This animation describes the digital connections between the generating unit, the control room and the substation). The work on this first unit is part of a design build contract NYPA trustees awarded to Burns and McDonnell earlier this year, which includes subcontracts to Emerson and Ferguson Electric of Buffalo. The first-unit outage is expected to last approximately seven months.

About the Niagara Power Project

Following the collapse of Niagara Mohawk's Schoellkopf Power Station in 1956, and the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs in the Niagara Region and nearly 25% of the city's tax base, the Federal Power Commission issued a license in 1957 to the New York Power Authority to redevelop Niagara Falls' hydroelectric power. The Power Authority employed 11,700 workers and, within three years, 12 million cubic yards of rock were excavated. The herculean effort led to the construction of a massive main structure that is 1,840 feet long, 580 feet wide and 384 feet high. When the Niagara Power Project produced its first power in 1961, it was the largest hydropower facility in the Western world and President John F. Kennedy called it "an example to the world of North American efficiency and determination." After 60 years of operation and its obtaining a new 50-year federal operating license in 2007, the Niagara Power Project remains a crown jewel of New York's power infrastructure.

Moreover, NYPA is the largest state public power organization in the nation, operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. More than 80% of the electricity NYPA produces is clean, renewable hydropower. NYPA uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. For more information, visit www.nypa.gov and follow us on Twitter @NYPAenergy, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and LinkedIn.

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