New York Power Authority on Track to Becoming Nation’s First All-Digital Electric Utility


The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has moved a step closer toward becoming the nation’s first all-digital electric utility by testing an array of sensors at its Robert Moses-Niagara Power Plant that will help determine the life expectancy of key equipment and head off potential problems before they can affect operations.

Data from approximately 100 sensors is currently being used in a simulation on a turbine-generator unit (one of 13) at the plant. However, NYPA engineers will soon seek to deploy them elsewhere as part of a larger equipment life extension and modernization program at the facility.

This initiative supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, which seeks to build an energy system that is more efficient, resilient and affordable for all New Yorkers. The work is also an essential component of NYPA’s 2020 Strategic Vision digital utility roadmap.

“The data from these sensors will arm us with the knowledge of what equipment should be replaced and what can be rebuilt,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “With this information from key sensors we can direct resources devoted to maintenance to where they’re needed most and avoid potentially costly equipment failures.”

To help determine the life cycle of a turbine-generating unit, the sensor simulations have provided information that could be used to estimate the life of principal unit components, such as a shaft or a generator motor.

NYPA has previously employed sensor simulations at other facilities, including its Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Plant in Schoharie County, where tests helped predict and identify rotor cracks, and at the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant in Niagara County to evaluate the life cycle of the components there. One priority at Niagara is to determine whether vibrations in bearings of rotors and shafts reveal patterns that suggest repairs may be needed.

The Robert Moses-Niagara and Lewiston plants are part of the Niagara Power Project, New York’s largest electricity producer. It provides up to 2.6 million kilowatts of electricity from 25 turbines spinning 748,000 gallons of water per second. Many, if not all, of these turbines are in active use unless they are scheduled for maintenance and are relied on to satisfy the state’s power needs (NYPA facilities typically generate up to 20% of the state’s electricity on a given day).

“The more proactive we can be about testing, the more we can preempt problems,” said Joseph Kessler, NYPA chief operating officer.“Maintaining our generation and transmission infrastructure is always one of our top priorities. Programs like this innovative sensor simulation program help us accomplish that.”

The sensor simulations come at a time when NYPA has already committed at least $750 million to lifecycle extension and modernization programs at its facilities, which includes installing new control and monitoring systems. NYPA will also rely on an extensive network of sensors that feed into  its Integrated Smart Operations Center in White Plains, launched last December, to monitor operations throughout the NYPA network. The center staff analyze information from sensors at plants to identify potential anomalies in equipment performance. In turn, that enables necessary maintenance to be performed in a timely fashion and avoids costly and lengthy shutdowns caused by a sudden failure.

In November 2017, NYPA installed 947 solar energy panels on the main roof of BMCC’s four-block-long 199 Chambers Street building. The five by three-foot panels of 327 watts, many of which are visible from the streets of Tribeca, are hung vertically on the cooling tower enclosure walls and flat on the western lower roof facing the Hudson River for maximum exposure to the sun. The Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) is now home to the largest solar photovoltaic facility in all of New York City.

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