NYPA’s $281MM St. Lawrence-FDR hydroelectric refurbishing project enters final stages

Source: New York Power Authority

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has entered the final stages of its Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) Program at the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project. NYPA has completed work on the 14th of 16 turbine-generators to undergo refurbishing as part of a $281 million initiative to ensure that the hydroelectric project remains a reliable source for some of the lowest-cost electricity in the country, for years to come.

“The Life Extension and Modernization Program at the St. Lawrence-FDR project is truly indicative of our dedication to the efficiency and continuing operation of this vital generating facility,” said Michael J. Townsend, chair of the NYPA Board of Trustees. “The completion of the 14th turbine-generator keeps us on track to complete the overall initiative by 2013. The Power Authority is committed to investing in its critical energy infrastructure to ensure that these facilities are providing low-cost powers for the benefit of New York State for years into the future.”

The Power Authority undertook the St. Lawrence LEM program to replace or renovate the original major generating equipment in the power project and improve the overall performance flexibility and efficiency of the facility, which has operated continuously since 1958.

The work has required a highly coordinated effort involving nine major component manufacturers in achieving numerous installation milestones. Among the most significant activities has been the disassembly and removal of the turbines, the major component of the turbine-generator units, and the renovation of their turbine-pit locations to facilitate the installation of the refurbished units.

Alstom Hydro USA, a global supplier of equipment and services for power generation and other industries, was awarded two independent contracts to manufacture all 16 replacement turbines. The turbines are of two different designs, corresponding with the original equipment manufactured by Baldwin Lima Hamilton (BLH) and Allis Chalmers (AC).

At the time of St. Lawrence-FDR’s construction more than 50 years ago, no single manufacturer could meet the ambitious schedule for supplying the turbines. The responsibility was evenly divided between BLH and AC. Since 2007, the LEM program has centered on the AC turbines, following the replacement of the eight BLH units.

Among the design advances in the replacement turbines is a more efficient shape for harnessing available water from the St. Lawrence River to generate power. The new turbines also use stainless steel instead of the carbon steel composite of the original equipment. Stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion and requires less maintenance, which will contribute to extending the life of the hydroelectric project.

Other elements of the LEM have included generator rewinding, installation of new switchgear, replacement transformers, and modernization of protection and control systems.

When possible, the Power Authority has contracted with local businesses for different facets of the work, including rotor performance tests, electrical tie-ins and mechanical work. This has included companies in Massena, Ogdensburg, Canton, Gouverneur and Potsdam.

Over the decades of its operation, the St. Lawrence-FDR project has produced more than 340 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which would be sufficient power to meet electricity demand in the U.S. for one month. The project has also prevented emissions of almost 175 million tons of greenhouse gases from fossil-fueled plants, avoiding the need for roughly 550 million barrels of oil.

The 800,000-kilowatt project’s largest customer is Alcoa in Massena, with more than half of the facility’s generating output reserved under state law for businesses in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Franklin counties. Hydropower allocations from the St. Lawrence-FDR project have more recently been made to Florelle Tissue, which has committed to investing $3.5 million to reopen a dormant paper mill in Jefferson County and create 75 new jobs and to Upstate Niagara Cooperative, a cooperative of 375 New York dairy farmers, which has acquired and will reopen the recently idled North Lawrence Dairy processing facility in St. Lawrence County and create 100 new jobs over the next three years.

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