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NYPA celebrates "halfway point" in Niagara Power Project upgrade

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The New York Power Authority welcomed guests including elected officials into a part of the Niagara Power Project that's usually off-limits to the public. Officials updated guests on a $460 million dollar upgrade going on inside the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant.

The expensive undertaking, known as the Life Extension Modernization (LEM) program and which began in 2012, features the gradual replacement of 12 power turbines, many of which had been in place since the Niagara Power Project first went online in 1961.

"In addition to the turbine replacement, the LEM work also involved the replacement of a shaft, head covers, transformers, exciter unit controls, wicket gates and circuit breakers. Basically, all the guts thta make up a power turbine," said NYPA president and CEO Gil Quinones.

He and other guests, which included Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Niagara Falls mayor Paul Dyster, stood in front of one of the turbines components, which measures nine feet tall by 15 feet wide and weighs nearly 70 tons. The turbines were designed in Japan but forged in Slovenia, according to NYPA officials.

Quinones explained that one of the challenges in the project is keeping the power running while replacing its turbines. Each replacement, he said, takes about eight to nine months.

NYPA officials says replacing the turbines will help the provider continue to deliver low-cost power to its customers, including business which, in turn, provide more than 400,000 jobs throughout the state.

Mayor Dyster spoke of Nikola Tesla, the inventor and engineer who helped develop hydroelectric power production at Niagara Falls, and reminded guests that the Cataract City was a pioneer in clean, renewable energy, until America's appetite for fossil fuels grew. He says the region can again be a leader in renewable energy, especially as Governor Andrew Cuomo pushes for its increased use over the next several years.

"Renewable energy is the path of the future," Dyster said. "We were on the path of renewable energy here 100 years ago. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York is going to be a leader in renewable energy into the future. The governor has committed us to producing 50 percent of our energy from renewables by 2030. One of the leaders of that has got to be the New York Power Authority."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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