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Major control room improvements digitize New York’s largest clean energy power project to extend hydropower plant’s operating life, improve workplace ergonomics
√ View video of ‘Next Generation Niagara’ modernization and digitization project
The Niagara Power Project’s control room – the space that contains remote operating controls for the entire Niagara Power Project, including the Robert Moses Power Plant, the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant and associated switchyards – recently completed its first major upgrade since the plant was built over 60 years ago (in 1961).
NYPA stated, “The upgrades are vital to ensure that the largest source of clean electricity in New York state and one of the largest hydropower facilities in the country will continue to help New York state’s meet its bold clean energy goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”
Acting President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “The upgrade and digitization of our Niagara Power Project’s controls is a foundational pillar in our multiyear modernization effort to ensure that New York’s flagship clean energy power plant is leading the way in hydropower generation for the state for the next 50 years. The complete control room overhaul is the centerpiece of our ‘Next Generation Niagara’ life extension and modernization program. We are digitizing the entire plant, turbine by turbine. We also are taking this opportunity to make workplace design improvements for the health and safety of our operators that conform to best industry practices.”
The control room upgrades and digitization, conducted over a nine-month period in 2022, is a signature part of the Power Authority’s 15-year modernization and digitization program dubbed “Next Generation Niagara” (NGN), which NYPA said will extend the operating life of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. The control room upgrades are designed to improve operator performance and bolster cyber security. New features include installation of a large video display board, better lighting, noise-canceling architecture and sit/stand desks.
Launched in July 2019, the “Next Gen Niagara” program improvements include replacing aging equipment with the latest machinery that reflects advanced digital technologies for optimizing the hydroelectric project's performance.
NYPA noted the initiative encompasses four major phases: 1) Design and implementation of an inspection platform to conduct comprehensive inspections of the Robert Moses Plant's penstocks – the 485-foot conduits that are 26 feet in diameter along the face of the project that carry water from the forebay to the turbine generators; 2) replacement of the 630-ton gantry crane that enables disassembly and reassembly of the generating units; 3) upgrading and digitizing control systems and 4) overhaul and/or replacement of mechanical components that have reached the end of their operating life.
The Niagara Power Project control room in Lewiston: "Before": March 19, 1961. NYPA Operator John Bieniek takes notes via telephone while Senior Operator John Schweitzer operates controls. "After": Feb. 17, 2023. NYPA Senior Control Room Operator Devin Ginty responds to a call in the newly renovated Niagara control room. (Photos credit: NYPA)
The engineering, procurement and construction for the control room upgrade project was awarded to Burns & McDonnell in December 2019.
“We’re honored to have partnered with the New York Power Authority to modernize this crucial asset of New York's power infrastructure,” said Scott Strawn, a vice president in the Burns & McDonnell Energy Group. “The control upgrades at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant will allow NYPA to continue providing clean and reliable power to New Yorkers for decades to come.”
More 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. President John F. Kennedy called it "an example to the world of North American efficiency and determination."
After 60 years of operation and obtaining a new 50-year federal operating license in 2007, the Niagara Power Project remains “the crown jewel of New York's power infrastructure.”
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.
Burns & McDonnell is a family of companies bringing together a team of 10,000 engineers, construction and craft professionals, architects, and more to design and build critical infrastructure. Founded in 1898 and working from more than 60 offices globally, Burns & McDonnell is 100% employee-owned.