The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced plans on Thursday to extend the life of the Niagara Power Project, the state's biggest single source of carbon-free electricity, through a $1.1 billion modernization and digitization program.
The "Next Generation Niagara" infrastructure investment is centered on the Robert Moses Niagara Power Station, a 2,525 MW hydro facility built in 1961 which diverts water from above Niagara Falls to generate electricity.
The modernization project is the largest capital investment in NYPA history. It will be carried out in four phases beginning this fall and continuing over the next 15 years, helping ensure that New York meets its 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 goal, state officials said.
Electricity infrastructure is built to last decades, but eventually all facilities need to be upgraded or retired. New York's choice to invest in extending the life of its largest hydro facility reflects both the governor's commitment to carbon-free electricity and a desire to continue supporting the jobs and investments which the project underpins, according to a press release from the governor's office.
"Governor [Andrew] Cuomo's plan to extend the operating life of the Niagara Power Project will increase our clean energy sources and create additional green-collar job opportunities for New Yorkers," New York State Senator and Energy Committee Chair Kevin Parker said in a statement.
According to The Buffalo News, some 14-year contracts for work on the Robert Moses Power Station have already been awarded, with a $69 million contract for penstock maintenance going to the Buffalo-based State Group and a $134 million contract to supply equipment for integrated digital controls going to Burns & McDonnell of Kansas City, Missouri.
The Niagara project supplies 10% of New York's electricity, making it an important "grounding force" for the state's transition to 100% carbon-free generation, the governor's office said.
"The Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant is a major piece of New York's existing renewable electricity capacity, and we are committed to playing a leadership role by sustaining and growing the amount of carbon-free electricity we provide to our great state," Gil Quiniones, NYPA's President and CEO, said in a statement.
Hydro and nuclear are significant baseload generation sources for New York, together accounting for more than 50% of the state's generation mix. New York subsidizes its nuclear plants — a controversial practice, but one that helps the state decarbonize its grid. Keeping hydro online accomplishes a similar goal.
"A billion dollars is a lot of money. But to replicate that asset, it would be multiple factors of a billion," Sarah Salati, NYPA executive vice president, told The Buffalo News.