Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant

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For other hydroelectric generating plants at Niagara Falls, see Niagara Falls hydroelectric generating plants.
Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station
Robert moses niagara power plant 01.jpg
Location Lewiston, New York, United States
Coordinates 43°08′35″N 79°02′23″W / 43.14306°N 79.03972°W / 43.14306; -79.03972Coordinates: 43°08′35″N 79°02′23″W / 43.14306°N 79.03972°W / 43.14306; -79.03972
Commission date 1961
Power generation
Units operational 13
Nameplate capacity 2,525 MW

The Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station is a hydroelectric power station in Lewiston, New York near Niagara Falls, New York, United States. The plant diverts water from the Niagara River above Niagara Falls and returns the water into the lower portion of the river near Lake Ontario. It utilizes 13 generators at an installed capacity of 2,525 megawatts (MW).

The Robert Moses plant was built to replace power production upon the collapse of the hydroelectric Schoellkopf Power Station on June 7, 1956 in Niagara Falls. It is named after Robert Moses, a mid-20th Century urban planner in New York and is directly opposite of the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Stations in Ontario, Canada.



The land that the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant occupies has a long history of use. In 1805, Augustus and Peter Porter of Buffalo, New York purchased the American Falls from New York in a public auction. Acquiring the rights to the eastern rapids above the falls as well, the Porter brothers envisioned building a diversion canal in order to produce hydraulic power. Before constructing the canal or powerhouse, the Porter brothers both died and several companies unsuccessfully attempted the project afterwards.[1]

In 1853, the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company was first chartered and began construction on the canal in 1860. The 35 ft (11 m) wide and 8 ft (2.4 m) deep canal was completed in 1861 and in 1875, the powerhouse began to operate. The power plant produced very little electricity by early electric age standards.[1]

In 1877, Jacob Schoellkopf purchased the canal along with the water and power rights for $71,000. Schoellkopf would improve the canal and use the powerhouse for commercial uses.

In 1881 the Schoellkopf Power Station No. 1 was constructed, which would operate until 1904. In 1891, Schoellkopf completed their second power plant, the Schoellkopf Power Station No. 2, directly in front of the original, in the gorge below the falls, with a higher 210 ft (64 m). drop. In 1904, they built Schoellkopf Stations No. 3A and 3B.[2]

In 1886, the competing Niagara Falls Power Company, owned by the Cataract Construction Company, built what is known as the Adams Power Plant. In 1900, construction began on the Niagara Falls Power Company's Powerhouse No. 2, which was completed in 1904 a total of 11 generators.[2]

In 1918, the First World War prompted consolidation of the two existing power companies to form a new Niagara Falls Power Company. In 1921, construction began on Schoellkopf Station No. 3C, adjacent to the previous ones. This was completed in 1924 and contained three 25 Hz generators with a total capacity of 210,000 hp (160,000 kW).[2] In 1925, the entire set of Schoellkopf Power Stations had 19 generators which could produce 450,000 HP (335 MW).


Photo taken in 1973

On June 7, 1956 water had seeped into the back wall of the Schoellkopf power station No. 2 and despite worker efforts to stop the flow of water, 2/3 of the power station collapsed. The power station had already long out-lived its life-expectancy. One worker was killed and damage was estimated at $100 million USD.[3]

In order to replace the Schoellkopf Power Stations, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) planned a new power-plant at a cost of $800 million USD that would take three years to build and produce 2.4 GW. At the time, it was called the Niagara Power Project before it was named the Robert Moses Niagara Power Station, after Robert Moses, the NYPA head at the time.

In 1957, the United States Congress approved the project and construction began that year. The NYPA had to gain the right to 550 acres (2.2 km2) of Tuscarora Indian Reservation in order to build the 1,900-acre (7.7 km2), 22-billion-US-gallon (83,000,000 m3) reservoir and did so in 1960 through a United States Supreme Court decision, the Federal Power Commission v. Tuscarora Indian Nation.[1] [4]

During construction, over 12 million cubic yards of rock was excavated and twenty workers died. Construction was complete in 1961.[1] In 1961, when the Niagara Falls hydroelectric project first went on line, it was the largest hydropower facility in the Western world.

Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant[edit]

The Robert Moses Niagara Power Station shown on the right of the image, with the western portion of the forebay as described.

The pump-generating plant is located in the Lewiston Dam that is not typical, in that the dam was constructed not to control the flow of water in a natural river, but rather to contain a man-made 1,900-acre (7.7 km2), 22-billion-US-gallon (83,000,000 m3) upper reservoir (named the Lewiston Reservoir) which stores the water before being released into the forebay of the Robert Moses Power Station. Water enters the forebay via tunnels from the Niagara River upstream of the natural falls. Water in the forebay is then either pumped up into the upper reservoir or immediately sent down over the escarpment downstream of the natural falls into the Robert Moses Power Station turbines. The Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant 43°08′33″N 79°01′18″W / 43.14250°N 79.02167°W / 43.14250; -79.02167 (Lewiston Pump-Generating Plant) houses 12 electrically powered pump-generators that can generate a combined 240 MW when water in the upper reservoir is released.

At night, a substantial fraction (600,000 US gallons (2,300 m3) per second) of the water in the Niagara River is diverted to the forebay by two 700 ft (210 m) tunnels. Electricity generated in the Moses plant is used to power the pumps to push water into the upper reservoir behind the Lewiston Dam. The water is pumped at night because the demand for electricity is much lower than during the day. In addition to the lower demand for electricity at night, less water can be diverted from the river during the day because of the desire to preserve the appearance of the falls. During the following day, when electrical demand is high, water is released from the upper reservoir through the pump-generators in the Lewiston Dam. The water then flows into the forebay, where it falls through the turbines of the Moses plant. Some would say that the water is "used twice". This arrangement is a variant of what is called pumped-storage hydroelectricity. Engineers copied what had been built by Ontario Hydro, across the river, when a similar system was built during construction of the Sir Adam Beck generating station II in the 1950s.

This system allows energy to be stored in vast quantities. At night, the potential energy in the diverted water is converted into electrical energy in the Moses plant. Some of that electrical energy is used to create potential energy when the water is pumped into the reservoir behind the Lewiston Dam. During the day, part of the potential energy of the water in the Lewiston reservoir is converted into electricity at the Lewiston Dam, and then its remaining potential energy is captured by the Moses Dam, which is also capturing the potential energy of the water diverted from the river in real-time.

Beginning in 2012 and continuing through 2020, the pump-generating plant will be undergoing a $460 million modernization that will increase the plant's efficiency and service life. Previously, a refurbishment of the Robert Moses Plant was completed in 2006.[5]

Contamination of the site area[edit]

During the mid-1980s, the New York Power Authority began an expansion project at the site, known as FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) Project 2216. Soon after, the project was halted due to discovery of hazardous chemicals such as dioxins, which had been dumped underground by chemical companies which had owned the land previously. A civil lawsuit was filed in the State of New York against the New York Power Authority, Occidental Petroleum, Hooker Chemicals, Bechtel Corporation, and Parsons Brinckerhoff, which was settled out of court in 1999.[6] Subsequent testing near the Lewiston Reservoir near the project still confirms mercury and organic contamination which restricts the consumption of fish.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Niagara Falls History of Power
  2. ^ a b c "History - 25-Hz At Niagara Falls - End of an era on the Niagara Frontier, Part I". IEEE Power Engineering Society. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 
  3. ^ Schoellcopf collapse
  4. ^ Federal Power Commission v. Tuscarora Indian Nation, 362 U.S. 99 (1960) (United States Supreme Court 1960).
  5. ^ "NYPA to upgrade Lewiston Pump Generating Plant". Niagara Frontier Publications. July 3, 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Darrell R. Larocque v. New York Power Authority, et al. (Supreme Court of the State of New York 1999).
  7. ^ "Federal Regulatory Energy Commission Environmental Final Environmental Impact Statement of Niagara Project". 2006. p. 74. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 

External links[edit]