Completion of Blenheim-Gilboa hydro project upgrade marked by ceremony

The New York Power Authority marked the completion of a nearly four-year overhaul of its Blenheim-Gilboa pumped-storage hydro project in New York at an event where NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel was joined by state and local officials in highlighting the milestone.

NYPA’s Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) effort will improve the reliability of critical electricity infrastructure and increase the NYPA’s ability to help meet the long-term energy needs of the state, the NYPA reported. The final phase of the LEM project was initiated in 2009.

“The on-time and on-budget completion of the Life Extension and Modernization Program at Blenheim-Gilboa is a hallmark of achievement for all of those who’ve been involved with the nearly four-year initiative, which secures the future of this special hydroelectric facility for decades to come,” Kessel said. “B-G’s value to New York State is especially apparent during the air-conditioning season when the margins between available electricity supplies and power consumption narrow the most, and market electricity costs tend to rise. For that reason, the completion of the project’s refurbishing ahead of the peak-demand months is good news for the state’s electric power system and ratepayers, and something to celebrate.”

In May, NYPA returned to service the last of Blenheim-Gilboa’s four pump-turbine generating units to undergo replacement as part of the more than $135 million upgrade of the 37-year-old facility, which recycles water between lower and upper reservoirs to generate power when it is most needed. The more efficient, modern units allow the pumped-storage project to produce additional power from the falling water from the upper reservoir on Brown Mountain, with the total capacity of the facility increased by 120 megawatts, or 11.5 percent, to 1,160 megawatts.

“Our maximizing of B-G’s efficiency-and its ability to generate more power from the same amount of water-contributes to the overall reliability and flexibility of the state’s electric power system,” Michael J. Townsend, NYPA chairman, said. “This has been a vital initiative for enhancing the project’s capability for harnessing the stored water from the project’s upper reservoir to produce economical power during the times of peak demand. The Life Extension and Modernization Program also reflects the priority the Power Authority has long given to being a good steward of its hydroelectric resources, which account for nearly 80 percent of its statewide power generation.”

NYPA began the LEM at Blenheim-Gilboa, which is the fifth largest pumped-storage project in the nation, in September 2006 when the first of the four pump-turbine generating units was taken out of service for refurbishing. The process was repeated three times, in the fall of 2007, 2008 and 2009, with each unit returned to service by the following summer with an increase in maximum capacity from 260 megawatts to 290 megawatts per unit.

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