NYPA plans $7.8 million in studies, upgrades at Capital Region hydro plants
CAPITAL REGION Capital Region hydroelectric facilities will generate $7.81 million in spending next year under a 2014 budget released by the New York Power Authority.
Outlays of $4.646 million for turbine overhauls and $3.164 million in studies for a federal license make up but a fraction of the public utility’s $880 million 2014 Operating Plan.
“Our 2014 budget is a cornerstone for making certain that our power plants and transmission facilities are equipped to handle the challenges of a 21st century economy,” NYPA CEO Gil C. Quiniones said in a news release.
The New York Power Authority is considered the biggest state public power utility in the U.S., and funds its work by selling electricity. The bulk of that electricity — 70 percent — comes from hydroelectric power generated at several facilities including the Mohawk River’s Vischer Ferry plant opposite Lock 7 in Niskayuna; the Crescent plant downriver, straddling Albany and Saratoga counties; and the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project on the Schoharie Creek in Schoharie County.
Licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 1969 and placed in service in 1973, the B-G facility’s 50-year license expires April 30, 2019.
Applying for new license is a multiyear process that will start in 2014 and is expected to cost more than $19 million through 2017, according to the budget.
NYPA spokeswoman Connie Cullen in an e-mail said the formal start of the relicensing effort will begin around April 30 with initial notification to FERC.
Studies and consultations will be ongoing before the formal license application is filed by April 2017, she said.
Though exempt from local property taxes, the B-G facility is expected to produce some “host community” benefits in Schoharie County for the first time as part of the relicensing.
The power authority’s new license for its St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project brought more than $115 million to St. Lawrence County, four towns, two villages and two school districts 12 years ago. And NYPA’s Niagara Power Project yielded more than $105 million to its host communities since that site’s license was renewed in 2007.
NYPA is working on its other facilities, as well. The full cost of turbine rebuilding at the Crescent and the Vischer Ferry hydroelectric plants is estimated at $8.8 million and $11.9 million respectively, according to NYPA records from December 2012, when both projects were approved.
Each of the Mohawk River facilities use four turbines to produce nearly 10 megawatts of electricity each.
Two turbines were added to each plant after NYPA acquired the sites in the 1980s. The power plants were formerly used as part of the Erie Canal’s infrastructure before NYPA took ownership.
Both of the new turbines are reaching 30 years in age.
Their bearing seals are leaking and the doors that release water to spin the turbines are not fully functional, which is causing severe wear, according to NYPA records.
The project to restore them will involve upgrading a 40-ton bridge crane, installing a new braking system and replacing other parts.
Cullen said crews began disassembling the turbines at Vischer Ferry last month and turbine disassembly will begin at the Crescent plant in mid-January.
People can learn more about the New York Power Authority online at www.nypa.gov.