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NYPA Completes Upgrade of Niagara Project

Stephen Shoenholz

December 21, 2006


LEWISTON—A $298 million, 15-year program to upgrade the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Niagara Power Project was completed Thursday (Dec. 21).

The initiative will enable the 2,400-megawatt project, the largest electricity producer in New York State and one of the largest in the nation, to operate at maximum efficiency for many years to come.

Highlights of the program included replacement of the turbines and retrofitting of other components of all 13 generating units at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, the project’s main generating facility.  Work on the first of the 13 units began in 1991; the last returned to service Thursday.

“We are extremely gratified by the results of this program, which was designed and managed by the Power Authority’s Engineering and Project Management organizations and carried out largely by our staff at the Niagara project,” said NYPA Chairman Frank S. McCullough, Jr.  “Thanks to their efforts, this great power project is poised to remain a vital source of clean, low-cost electricity and a bulwark of the economy in Western New York, where it already helps to protect some 43,700 jobs.”

Timothy S. Carey, NYPA’s president and chief executive officer, said, “The upgrade demonstrates that we take our responsibility as owner and operator of the Niagara Power Project very seriously and that we are determined to be responsible stewards of this invaluable public resource that produces some of the least expensive electricity in the United States.”

Carey noted that continued successful operation of the Niagara project will be critical to New York State’s effort to meet ambitious renewable energy targets proposed by Gov. George E. Pataki in 2003 and adopted by the state Public Service Commission the following year. The Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for at least 25 percent of the state’s electricity to come from clean, renewable sources such as hydroelectric power by 2013.

The Niagara upgrade was designed both to improve the plant’s efficiency and to carry out repairs that would have been required in any case to ensure effective long-term operation.  The 13 generating units were removed from service one at a time to permit completion of the work on each with only minimal effect on the project’s output.

The effort required special skills and tools, including flatbed trucks and railcars to haul turbines and transformers.  A large gantry crane hefted the giant turbines and swung them into place.  Rotors and turbines, each as large as a house, were joined and centered in stators.  Cooling pipes were added, transformers installed, wicket gates aligned, and modern computer control systems and sensors set in place.

The weight of each of the finished 13 generating units was over 900 tons.

Because of the added efficiency, it is expected that the project will be able to produce about 32 additional megawatts of power that will be available on a firm, or assured, basis.

Half of this power will be provided to municipal and rural cooperative customers as required by federal law.  The remainder is expected to be used for a portion of the allocations to be made to local entities as part of agreements reached in the Niagara project relicensing process.

Completion of the upgrade comes as the Power Authority awaits a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on its application for a new 50-year operating license for the project. The original license expires in August 2007.

“A new license will give us the right to continue operating the project,” Carey said.  “The upgrade goes beyond even that by ensuring that we will meet our responsibility to do so as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can.”

In addition to the upgrade at the Moses plant, the Power Authority earlier this year completed a $24 million maintenance program at the Niagara project’s Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant, which supplements the Moses plant’s output in peak demand periods.

About NYPA:

 ■    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.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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