You know it as one of the great natural wonders of the world. But did you know that the power behind Niagara Falls also helps generate some of the least expensive electricity anywhere?
The United States and Canada have shared the Niagara River’s water power—along with a commitment to preserve the beauty of the Falls—for nearly half a century. And our Niagara Power Project will continue to produce steady supplies of clean, carbon-free hydroelectricity for another 50 years with a new federal license which took effect September 1, 2007.
When the Niagara project produced its first power in 1961, it was the largest hydropower facility in the Western world at the time. Today, Niagara is the biggest electricity producer in New York State, generating 2.4 million kilowatts—enough power to light 24 million 100-watt bulbs at once! This low-cost electricity saves the state’s residents and businesses hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
In 2006, the Power Authority completed a $300-million upgrade and modernization at the project’s Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant. All 13 turbines have been replaced and other improvements were made to generating equipment in the power dam, enabling the project to operate at maximum efficiency well into the 21st century. In 2012, we began a $460 million upgrade to the project’s Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
The Niagara project, located about 4 1/2 miles downstream from the Falls, consists of two main facilities: the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, with 13 turbines, and the Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant, with 12 pump-turbines. In between the two plants is a forebay capable of holding about 740 million gallons of water; behind the Lewiston plant, a 1,900-acre reservoir holds additional supplies of this liquid fuel.
Put very simply, we divert water from the Niagara River—up to 375,000 gallons a second—and convey it through conduits under the City of Niagara Falls to Lewiston. From there, water flowing through the Robert Moses plant spins turbines that power generators, converting this mechanical energy into electrical energy.
At night, when electricity demand is low, the Lewiston units operate as pumps, transporting water from the forebay up to the plant’s reservoir.
During the daytime, when electricity use peaks, the Lewiston pumps are reversed and become generators, similar to those at the Moses plant. In this way, the water can be used to produce electricity twice, increasing production and efficiency.
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