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NYPA reports first milestone in effort to extend hydro project’s operating life through digitization

November 17, 2020

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
November 17, 2020

The New York Power Authority on Nov. 17 announced the first milestone of its 15-year modernization and digitization program to significantly extend the operating life of its Niagara Power Project.

The Niagara Power Project is New York State’s biggest electricity producer, providing up to 2.6 million kilowatts of electricity, which is generated by two facilities, the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant and the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant, with a combined 25 turbines spun by 748,000 gallons of water per second. NYPA sells the power to state facilities, municipal and rural electric coops, and large utilities.

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, NYPA said.

“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 twelve units,” said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO, in a statement.

Improvements under Next Generation Niagara, which was launched in July 2019, 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.

  • A comprehensive inspection of the Robert Moses plant’s penstocks;
  • Refurbishing the 630-ton crane that enables mechanical work on the turbines;
  • Upgrading and digitizing control systems; and building a new back-up control room; and
  • Overhaul and/or replacement of mechanical components that have reached the end of their operating life

NYPA said that the first major outage will allow for the installation of new digital controls on the first 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.

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 7 months.