The upgrade, completed in December 2006, will enable the 2400MW project – the largest electricity producer in New York State, US – to operate at maximum efficiency in the long term.

Highlights of the programme 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 on 21 December.

Timothy S. Carey, NYPA’s president and chief executive officer, 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% 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 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 an additional 32MW 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 came just before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released details on the final environmental impact statement which evaluates the project’s relicensing. According to the statement, FERC’s recommendation is to relicence the project as proposed under the terms of NYPA’s relicensing agreement, with some minor modifications (see link below).

In addition to the upgrade at the Moses plant, NYPA earlier in 2006 completed a US$24M maintenance programme at the Niagara project’s Lewiston pump-generating plant, which supplements the Moses plant’s output in peak demand periods.

External weblinks

FERC – Niagara power project EIS