LEWISTON - Representatives from the New York Power Authority have announced what they described as a milestone in an ongoing $1.1 billion effort to upgrade the Niagara Power Project.
The authority is in the process of modernizing and digitizing the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant as part of a 15-year life extension project involving upgrades to the 13 turbine units in the project's main generating facility. Power authority representatives said an outage to allow for the overhaul of the first unit began recently and digitization and modernization work commenced earlier this month.
“The digitization of the first hydroelectric generator at the Robert Moses Power Plant is significant because it will set the course for work on the remaining twelve units,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “We have been planning this work for many months, but as the old saying goes, this is where the ‘rubber meets the road.’”
The co-called "Next Generation Niagara" project was launched in July 2019. Officials said Next Gen improvements include replacing aging equipment with the latest machinery reflecting advanced digital technologies for optimizing the hydroelectric project's performance.
The initiative encompasses four major phases, including:
• A comprehensive inspection of the Robert Moses plant's penstocks—the 485 foot tubes that are 24 feet in diameter along the face of the project that carry water from the forebay to the turbine generators;
• refurbishing the 630-ton crane that enables mechanical work on the turbines
• upgrading and digitizing control systems and
• building a new back-up control room and overhaul and/or replacement of mechanical components that have reached the end of their operating life.
Officials said the first major outage allows for the installation of new digital controls on the first (one of 13) turbine generator unit and its connections to the control room and the plant’s substations. Panels in the control room corresponding to the turbine unit also will be digitized as part of the plant’s overall control room upgrade and redesign. The turbine unit outage aligns with another outage for work on NYPA’s transmission life extension and modernization program taking place in the plant’s switchyard. The effort will allow new digital controls to be installed on the transformers and circuit breakers corresponding to the upgraded turbine.
The work on the first unit is part of a design build contract NYPA trustees awarded to Burns and McDonnell earlier this year, which includes subcontracts to Emerson and Ferguson Electric of Buffalo. The first-unit outage is expected to last roughly seven months.