Niagara Gazette

October 8, 2013

NYPA tackles pump-turbines as part of 10-year, $460M upgrade project

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The New York Power Authority has upgraded the first of 12 pump-turbines at the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant’s Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant as part of a 10-year, $460 million Life Extension and Modernization program, which began late last year.

“The LPGP upgrade is in line with Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on modernizing the state’s electric power system to optimize its performance and reliability,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “The Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant is one of the state’s premier electric power assets in terms of the enormity of its low-cost, emission-free power production. That value is being enhanced by our major ongoing investment on the multiyear upgrade.”

The modernization at the pump plant provides for the upgrade of the facility’s 12 pump-turbines and the replacement of generator step-up transformers, which date back to 1961 when the Niagara plant went into service. The next pump-turbine unit is scheduled to be taken out of service later this month.

“The completion of work on this first pump-turbine generator marks a significant step in the critical infrastructure upgrade at our Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant,” said Joseph Kessler, NYPA senior vice president for Power Generation.

The pump-generating plant provides electricity during periods of peak power demand, supplementing the output of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, the main generating facility.

The work at the pump plant will overhaul one pump-turbine every eight to nine months, ensuring that 11 of the 12 LPGP turbine units are available for operation during the upgrade so that NYPA can meet commitments to its power customers.

Work on the plant’s refurbishing includes contract awards to Ferguson Electric of Buffalo, the largest electrical contractor in Western New York.

Pumped-storage facilities store water as potential energy during off-peak hours for later use when demand is higher. At night or on weekends, when electricity demand is low, the pumped-generating plant’s reversible pump-turbine generating units operate as pumps, transporting water from the Niagara project’s forebay up to the Lewiston plant’s 22-billion-gallon upper reservoir, which is approximately 70 to 120 feet higher in elevation. Surplus electricity from the Moses plant is used to power the pumps to push water into the Lewiston Reservoir during the off-peak times.

During the daytime, when electricity use peaks, the pumps are reversed and become generators allowing Niagara River water to be used to produce electricity twice, with the same water flowing through the Lewiston pump-turbines and then the generating units at the Moses plant.

Together, the Moses plant and pump plant combine for a net dependable capability of 2,441 megawatts, making the Niagara plant the largest generating facility in the state and one of the largest in the country. (One MW is enough electricity to meet the power needs of 800 to 1,000 typical homes.)