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River Station History

The photos of the River Station below are from the Huntley Collection at the Historical Society of the Tonawandas

Predecessor to the Charles R. Huntley Station
From research by the late Craig Woodworth

The diversion of water from Niagara Falls by the two power companies on the American side and four companies on the Canadian side became an environmental issue.

In 1906 Congress passed the Burton Act that limited the amount of water the American plants could divert from the Niagara River above the Falls and limited the amount of power that could be imported from the Canadian plants. A 1910 treaty with Great Britain essentially reinforced these limits. In order to increase efficiency, the original double runner turbines in Niagara Falls Power Co. Power House 1 were replaced between 1910 and 1913 with Francis inward flow turbines and draft tubes. In the 1920s, the generators in Power House 1 were rewound for three phase 12,000 V.

With increased demand for power and no more available from Niagara Falls, Buffalo General Electric started construction in January 1916 of a coal fired steam generating station on the Niagara River about a mile north of the City of Buffalo. Originally called the River Station it was renamed the ‘Charles R. Huntley Station’ in 1926 following the death of the Buffalo General Electric president.

The plant initially consisted of three 20,000-kW, 25-Hz, 12,000-V, 90% power factor generators placed in service in November 1916 and February and March 1917. The 1500-rpm steam turbines operated at 250 pounds-per-square-inch and 675 degrees. There were eight stoker-fired boilers and two smokestacks. All the auxiliaries were steam operated; the fans and pumps by turbines, and the stokers by reciprocating engines. A kilowatt-hour of electricity required approximately 2.2 pounds of coal. Modern power plants require less than three-quarters of a pound of coal per kilowatt-hour.

As the load increased in the years following World War I, additional units were added:

Unit 4 35,000 kW December 1919
Unit 5 60,000 kW November 1926
Unit 6 75,000 kW November 1928
Unit 7 75,000 kW August 1930

In 1917, during the height of the World War, a power shortage caused by restrictions on the export of power from Canada required the International Railway Company to curtail trolley service on the Niagara Frontier. To alleviate the shortage the IRC installed a second-hand steam turbine with a 5,500-kW 3-phase 25-Hz 11,000-V generator at its steam plant. In November 1921 the increased supply of power from the River Station permitted the IRC to shut down their steam plant.

By 1929, there were 59 separate power companies serving Upstate New York; each company providing power to its local area. In 1929, all 59 companies joined together to form the Niagara Hudson Power Corp. Following an internal reorganization in 1950, it became Niagara Mohawk Power Co.

To meet the growing need for electric power in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, the addition of ten high-efficiency boilers that burned pulverized coal, new steam turbines, and additional stacks substantially increased the station’s capacity. These units and their in-service dates were: 80 MW (1942), 100 MW (1948), 100 MW (1953), 100 MW (1954), 200 MW (1957), 200 MW (1958). By 1950, the Niagara Mohawk Huntley Generating Station had a total capacity of 816 MW (Megawatts).

Click on a small image to see the full-size version. Use Previous and Next to move through the photos.

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