Power Authority CEO Announces Plans For $460 Million Upgrade Of Niagara Project’s Lewiston Pump Generating Plant

Michael Saltzman

June 29, 2010


BUFFALO—New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel Tuesday announced that NYPA is planning a major overhaul of the Niagara Power Project’s Lewiston Pump Generating-Plant (LPGP) to extend the life of the hydroelectric project’s auxiliary facility and enhance its performance.

The Power Authority Board of Trustees approved a $460 million Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) Program for the LPGP facility, which operates during periods of peak power demand in supplementing the electricity output of the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, the Niagara Project’s main generating facility. The trustees also authorized initial capital expenditures of $131 million for the upgrade and the award of a 10-year contract to Hitachi Power Systems America of Basking Ridge, N.J., which was the lowest-cost qualified bidder for replacing and modifying major components of LPGP’s pump-turbine generators.

“The Niagara Power Project is a tremendous asset to Western New York in providing some of the lowest cost electricity in the country, with its power production supporting tens of thousands of jobs on the Niagara Frontier,” Kessel said. “The Power Authority places the highest priority on being a good steward of this facility to ensure it continues to bring the greatest value to the region’s economy and the state’s electric power system.  The Life Extension and Modernization Program that we’re planning at the Lewiston Pump Generating-Plant is in keeping with this imperative, which also served as the basis for the Power Authority’s completion only a few years ago of a similar program at the Niagara Project’s Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant.”

“The Lewiston Pump Generating Plant is a key part of the Niagara project in its providing of supplemental generation when the power production is needed the most,” said Michael J. Townsend, NYPA chairman. “The Life Extension and Modernization Program approved by the Power Authority board will ensure that the LPGP facility continues to be a workhorse in the Niagara project’s harnessing of the available water from the Niagara River to produce low-cost electricity for Western New York and various customer groups, as provided for under state law.”

In 2006, NYPA completed a $24 million maintenance program at LPGP in the same year that it finished a $298 million, 15-year program to upgrade the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, where the Power Authority replaced turbines and retrofitted other components of all 13 generating units.  The LEM at the pump generating plant will be an undertaking of similar scope, for overhaul of the plant’s 12 pump turbine generator units, which date back to 1961, when the Niagara project was first placed into service. The work will include replacing the turbine runners, the rotating portion of the equipment. The runners, which typically weigh about 75 tons, transfer energy from the water flow to the generators.

The upgrade will begin in late 2012 under a schedule providing for the overhaul of a turbine generator unit every eight to nine months, with the final unit completed in 2020.  The phase-in schedule provides for 11 of the 12 LPGP units to be available for operation during the LEM so that NYPA can meet its commitments to its customers.

 In addition to extending the life of the pump generating plant, the refurbishing will lead to greater efficiencies, allowing the plant to generate additional power with the same amount of water.

Pumped-storage facilities like the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant store water as potential energy during off-peak hours for later use when demand is higher.  The principal benefits are retiming of generation and providing the ability to quickly respond to changes in customer demand.

At night or on weekends, when electricity demand is low, LPGP’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, the project’s main generating facility, 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 similar to the Moses plant.  In this way, Niagara River water can be used to produce electricity twice, with the same water flowing through the Lewiston generators and then the generating units at the Moses plant, which also capture the potential energy of the water diverted from the river in real-time. Together, LPGP and the Moses plant combine for a net dependable capability of 2,441 mw, making the Niagara project the largest generating facility in the state and one of the largest in the country.        

LPGP is one of two major pumped storage facilities in New York State—the other being the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project, another NYPA facility.  Only last May, the Authority completed a four-year overhaul of that facility, in the northern Catskills.

The selection of Hitachi Power Systems America for replacing parts of the pump-turbine generators and associated equipment stemmed from a Request for Proposals that NYPA issued last December for the new equipment and rehabilitation work.  The company, which was one of six bidders submitting proposals in response to the RFP, was awarded a $174 million contract for carrying out the overhaul during the 2012 to 2020 time frame, with the contract amount including allowances for future inflation.

Hitachi was also the company that upgraded and rehabilitated the pump-turbine units at the Blenheim-Gilboa project.   

Hitachi and other contractors are expected to utilize local union trades people, including machinists, electricians, mechanics and welders, in support of the LPGP work, contributing to economic development in the region. The work will include the disassembly and reassembly of equipment. 

“The Niagara project stands ready to meet the challenge of the Lewiston plant upgrade,” Joseph Kessler, NYPA regional manager Western New York, said. “We recognize the importance of the pending initiative and of its being coordinated with Niagara’s day-to-day operation of providing some of the lowest-cost electricity in the country for key Western New York businesses and other customers.”

The Power Authority is also currently conducting a LEM program at another hydroelectric project, the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project in Massena.  That initiative is more than three-quarters complete and scheduled to be finished by 2013. 

About NYPA:

■ The New York Power Authority 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 public power organization, with 17 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. ■ Approximately 80 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower.  Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state. ■For more information, www.nypa.gov.


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