Upgrade project completed at NYPA’s Niagara project control room

14 March 2023

Niagara Power Project Control Room, Lewiston N.Y.: Before: March 19, 1961. NYPA Operator John Bieniek takes notes via telephone while Senior Operator, John Schweitzer operates controls. After: February 17, 2023. NYPA Senior Control Room Operator Devin Ginty responds to a call in the newly renovated Niagara control room. Photo Credit NYPA

Major upgrade work has been completed on the control room at New York Power Authority’s Niagara power plant as part of the $1.1 billion, 15-Year ‘Next Generation Niagara’ Upgrade Project .

The control room, which contains remote operating controls for the entire Niagara Power Project, including the Robert Moses Power Plant, the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant and associated switchyards, hasn’t had a major upgrade since the plant was built over sixty years ago in 1961. The work carried out by Burns & McDonnell, after winning in a contract back in 2019, was vital to ensure that the project will continue to help New York State’s meet its bold clean energy goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“The upgrade and digitization of our Niagara Power Project’s controls is a foundational pillar in our multi-year modernization effort to ensure that New York’s flagship clean energy power plant is leading the way in hydropower generation for the state for the next 50 years,” said NYPA Acting President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “The complete control room overhaul is the centerpiece of our Next Generation Niagara life extension and modernization program. We are digitizing the entire plant, turbine by turbine. We also are taking this opportunity to make workplace design improvements for the health and safety of our operators that conform to best industry practices.”

The control room upgrades and digitization, conducted over a 9-month period in 2022, is a signature part of the Power Authority’s 15-year modernization and digitization program dubbed Next Generation Niagara (NGN) that will extend the operating life of NYPA’s Niagara Power Project in Lewiston.  The control room upgrades are designed to improve operator performance and bolster cyber security.  New features include installation of a large video display board, better lighting, noise canceling architecture and sit/stand desks.

Launched in July 2019, the NGN program improvements include replacing aging equipment with the latest machinery that reflects advanced digital technologies for optimizing the hydroelectric project's performance. The initiative encompasses four major phases: 1) Design and implementation of an inspection platform to conduct comprehensive inspections of the Robert Moses Plant's penstocks—the 485 foot conduits that are 26 feet in diameter along the face of the project that carry water from the forebay to the turbine generators; 2) Replacement of the 630-ton gantry crane that enables disassembly and reassembly of the generating units; 3) Upgrading and digitizing control systems and 4) Overhaul and/or replacement of mechanical components that have reached the end of their operating life.

“We’re honored to have partnered with the New York Power Authority to modernize this crucial asset of New York's power infrastructure,” commented Scott Strawn, a Vice President in the Burns & McDonnell Energy Group. “The control upgrades at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant will allow NYPA to continue providing clean and reliable power to New Yorkers for decades to come.”

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