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Local Residents Among Those Honored as N.Y. Power Authority's Employees of the Year for 2007 at Blenheim-Gilboa Project

Maura Balaban

June 4, 2008


NORTH BLENHEIM—The New York Power Authority (NYPA) today announced that a team of eight staff members have been named Employees of the Year for 2007 at NYPA’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project.  They achieved this recognition for the planning and successful execution of a complicated dewatering process integral to the project’s Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) program. 

The team members work at the Blenheim-Gilboa project except as noted.  They are: 

Brad Van Auken, Vice President of Engineering, White Plains Main Administrative Office (formerly Operations Superintendent, Blenheim-Gilboa project), from Niskayuna, Schenectady County;

Charles Serrie, Electric Maintenance Supervisor, from Grand Gorge, Delaware County;

Steve Schildhorn Senior Maintenance Resource Management Engineer, from Jewett, Greene County;

Ty Hinkley, Operations Shift Supervisor, from Roxbury, Delaware County;

Brian Saez, Operations Superintendent, from Slingerlands, Albany County;

Charles Jochem, Senior Pump/Generator Plant Operator, from Jefferson, Schoharie County;

Mack Argentieri, Operations Superintendent, Niagara Power Project (formerly Operations Superintendent, Blenheim-Gilboa project), from North Tonawanda, Niagara County; and

Andrew Sumner, Resident Construction Manager, from Lexington, Greene County. 

The Annual Employee Recognition Dinner, where the team was honored, was held on May 2 at the Vesuvio Restaurant in Hensonville.   

The team represents different disciplines of the Blenheim-Gilboa project operations including engineering, technical services, outage coordination, project management and operations. They were nominated for their work by demonstrating the highest level of teamwork and dedication in planning and safely executing the dewatering and refilling of the project’s upper reservoir and four large water conduits (each 12 feet in diameter).  This operation—a never-before-attempted task—was undertaken to permit replacement of a spherical valve.  The Blenheim-Gilboa project has four spherical valves—a large piece of equipment in the base of the powerhouse that controls the flow of water through the pump-turbines which, in turn, drive the electricity-producing generators.

The dewatering and refilling operation was planned over two years.  The employees performed this extremely challenging engineering undertaking on-schedule and without incident for the first time in the fall of 2006.  The operation was successfully repeated, in the fall of 2007, for the replacement of the second spherical valve.   

The success of this operation made a vital contribution to the progress of the Blenheim-Gilboa’s project’s four-year, $135 million LEM program.  The goal of the LEM program is to allow the project to produce more power from the same amount of water while extending the facility’s record of reliable service for decades ahead. The work on the remaining two valves will be undertaken in this manner in successive years with the LEM program scheduled for completion in 2010. 

The 1,040,000-kilowatt Blenheim-Gilboa project began operation in 1973 and supplies electricity during periods of high consumer demand. Water released from the upper reservoir, atop Brown Mountain, plunges 1,042 feet through four conduits within the mountain to power the pump-turbines which run the generators that produce electricity.  The water, then flows into a lower reservoir on Schoharie Creek.  At night and on weekends, when demand is lower, water is pumped back to the upper reservoir for use in subsequent days.

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