NYPA Reviewing Circuit Breaker Malfunction at St. Lawrence-FDR In Close Consultation With DEC:
Release of Insulating Fluid Contained to Switchyard Site

Michael Saltzman
(914) 390-8181

March 8, 2012


MASSENA—The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is undertaking a thorough assessment of a circuit-breaker malfunction that occurred on Saturday, March 3, at approximately 2 p.m. at its St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project that led to a fire in the project’s switchyard when electrical insulating fluid was ignited after the equipment failure. 

The Massena Fire Department was on-site within minutes of being notified and extinguished the fire by 4 p.m.  There were no injuries and the area community was never in any danger.  NYPA employees followed the St. Lawrence project’s emergency response protocols in their actions following the incident.      

The St. Lawrence-FDR project was at close to full power at the time of the occurrence. While the circuit-breaker failure led to temporary loss of a portion of the facility’s generating output, power service to the surrounding area was never affected.  The hydroelectric project resumed normal operations later Saturday.       

The Power Authority immediately notified the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that there was a release of insulating fluid and that it was contained to the 18-acre switchyard site, along with scattered debris. There is no indication that any fluid was discharged into the St. Lawrence River.

Representatives of the DEC have visited the switchyard site and NYPA is coordinating the clean-up of the fluid with the agency in accordance with DEC requirements. The U.S. Coast Guard also has inspected the site. NYPA also notified the New York Independent System Operator, which operates New York State’s bulk electricity grid, and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council, responsible for promoting and improving the reliability of the bulk power system in Northeastern North America.                 

Saturday’s occurrence may have been precipitated by high winds that led to an electrical fault and the automatic operation of several circuit breakers to isolate the fault from the power system.  One of the circuit breakers did not operate as designed.

Circuit breaker failures are not an uncommon occurrence in the electric utility industry.  The damaged breaker has been isolated from its circuit and is being removed. 

NYPA’s review of the events leading to the breaker failure includes analyzing all related data and records.  In conjunction with NYPA technical staff, outside experts with knowledge of circuit breakers have been contacted to support the Authority’s analysis for determining whether there are any corrective measures necessary for the remaining in-service circuit breakers.

About NYPA:

■ The New York Power Authority 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. ■ NYPA is a leader in promoting energy efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives. ■ It is the nation's largest state public power organization, with 17 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. ■ Approximately 80 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower.  Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state. ■For more information, www.nypa.gov.


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