In the face of COVID-19, Hydropower Operators Go Above and Beyond

In mid-March, as New York became an epicenter for the coronavirus in the United States, a NYPA electricity power plant control operator tested positive. Immediately, he and the four fellow control room operators with whom he works in close quarters were put in quarantine. What if more of these highly specialized control room operators were to get ill? Would the utility be able to keep the lights on?

NYPA immediately sprung into action, becoming the first utility in the United States to activate its critical employee sequestration plan. At its Niagara Hydropower Project in Lewiston, which normally has over 200 employees on site, NYPA has decreased employees down to “several dozen or less.” Two teams of sequestered employees, including control operators, cleaning crews and other essential employees, now live on-site for 30 days at a time. To ensure a reliable source of electricity, they volunteered to cut off their physical contact with all others, including their families, who could expose them to the coronavirus.

Since then, a number of other electric utilities have also activated their critical employee sequestration plans. To date, there have been no reported major disruptions.

Since the start of the crisis, NHA has facilitated hydropower operators talking to and learning from one another – sharing on-site management measures such as employee safety, sequestration, generation reliability and restart planning, as well as the challenges of supply chain issues.

Hydropower provides essential power for those providing essential services to the public. In addition to generating clean energy, hydropower provides critical grid reliability services such as black start capabilities and flexibility. We will continue to do everything we can to support the dedicated men and women in the hydropower industry and minimize the disruption to hydropower generators, suppliers and manufacturers.

From the Industrial Revolution to World War II to the growth of the tech sector, hydropower has helped power American innovation and ingenuity. And it stands ready to do its part in helping the nation through this difficult time.

Path to Clean Energy Vol 1

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