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Just in Time for Summer's High Demand for Electricity, NYPA Completes Third Unit Upgrade at Blenheim-Gilboa Project

Steve Ramsey

June 17, 2009


NORTH BLENHEIM—New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel today announced that the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project is ready for the peak-demand summer season, following the completion of work on the third of four pump-turbine generating units as part of a multiyear Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) program at the hydroelectric project.

“Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Blenheim-Gilboa LEM Project Team, this exceedingly difficult and complex project was completed safely, successfully, on budget and in time for the peak-use season for electricity,” Kessel said.  “When we turn on our fans and air-conditioners this summer we should remember the dedication and hard work at Blenheim-Gilboa over the winter months, so New York gets the energy it needs, when it’s needed most.

“Keeping the fast-track pace we set for the upgrade project is one way the Power Authority is intensifying its efforts to help achieve Governor Paterson’s ‘45 by 15’ goal to meet 45 percent of the state’s electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable sources, like the power produced at Blenheim-Gilboa, by 2015.”

The newly refurbished generating unit resumed commercial operation on May 30, after being out of service since Sept. 15, 2008. Despite the challenges of some delayed equipment deliveries, including a head cover and a lower ring, NYPA workers were able to complete the upgrade on schedule.

 “It takes a year or more to manufacture some of the turbine parts,” said Lynn Hait, regional manager of Central New York, NYPA. “We order them ahead of time and, when necessary, adapt the upgrade work to any changes in deliveries because there is no room at this facility to store the large components.  For example, the generator's main rotor, which weighs 500 tons, is as big as a house, and cannot be stored outdoors.”

The Blenheim-Gilboa project moves water between lower and upper reservoirs. At night, when the need for energy is low, the project’s dual-function pump turbine-generators move water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir on Brown Mountain. In the morning, when consumer demand for energy is increased, the water is released from the upper reservoir and plunges 1,200 feet to power the pump turbine-generators. The water then flows into a lower reservoir on Schoharie Creek.

When the project’s third pump-turbine generator was being refurbished the other pump-turbine generators were operating, except for a seven-week period when it was necessary to shut down the 1,040 megawatt (mw) project. During that time the water level in the facility’s upper reservoir was considerably reduced in order to accomplish the replacement of a spherical valve on the unit being refurbished. The valve controls the flow of water into the pump-turbine generator.

In September, the Power Authority will begin work on the fourth pump-turbine generator, which is the final unit to be upgraded. The unit is slated to be returned to service in June 2010 and will mark completion of the LEM program. The newly designed turbines, together with other new and refurbished components, allow each of the massive generators to realize improved efficiency which is estimated to increase its maximum capacity from 260 mw to approximately 290 mw.  At the conclusion of the LEM program, it is projected the Blenheim-Gilboa project will be capable of producing approximately 1,160 mw of electricity.

The LEM program marks the first time the pumped-storage project has been refurbished since it went into service in 1973. The $135 million upgrade will allow Blenheim-Gilboa to produce more power from the same amount of water while extending the facility’s record of reliable service for decades ahead.

NYPA is currently conducting a LEM program at its St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Project in Massena, with that initiative expected to be completed by 2013. It also completed a 15-year upgrade of its Niagara Power Project, near Niagara Falls, in late 2006 to enhance the efficiency of the project’s main generating facility and extend its operating life.  

  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.   For more information,

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