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Spending approved for Alcoa upgrades

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MASSENA — The Alcoa East smelter modernization project will be kicked off next month with the relocation of a transmission line necessary to accommodate a new substation and aluminum production equipment, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a Tuesday press release.

“This transmission line relocation is critical to Alcoa’s much anticipated modernization of the Massena East smelter and reflects the unwavering support of the state of New York to secure the long-term future of aluminum production in the north country,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There may be no more important development for the region’s economy than the overhaul and upgrade of the Massena East smelter, for which work will get underway this summer.”

The New York Power Authority Board of Trustees also on Tuesday approved capital expenditures of more than $3.7 million for the relocation of the transmission line, which it operates.

“The New York Power Authority’s support of the Alcoa modernization initiative goes well beyond the low-cost St. Lawrence-FDR hydropower assigned to the company’s Massena facilities, as reflected by the transmission relocation project that we’re embarking on,” Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer said in the release. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we continue to work closely with Alcoa to make the modernization project a reality to protect hundreds of jobs and spur capital investments of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Judge Eugene L. Nicandri, a NYPA trustee and long-time Massena resident, said: “The rebuilding of the Massena East facility is integral to the future of Northern New York. The relocation of the NYPA transmission lines on the smelter site is part of the necessary infrastructure modifications underpinning the major Alcoa modernization initiative that our region has long been looking forward to.”

Alcoa committed to invest at least $600 million to modernize its Massena operations and retain a minimum of 900 jobs at the company’s Massena East and Massena West smelters in return for 478 megawatts of low-cost hydropower from the NYPA St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Hydroelectric Plant. This amounts to approximately 60 percent of the plant’s generating output.

“The transmission-line relocation is essential for the next phase of the modernization upgrades at the Massena East plant,” said Bob Lenney, Alcoa East plant manager. “The relocation of the power lines several hundred feet to the south of their current site location is necessary for our installation of a new transmission substation for feeding electricity to a new aluminum production potline. This is another facet of New York State’s strong support for the Massena community.”

In March, the Alcoa Board of Directors announced that the company was prepared to proceed with the next phase of the modernization project. It plans to invest $42 million for site preparation at Massena East and to provide $10 million toward a North Country Economic Development Fund. The establishment of the fund is provided for under a long-term power agreement with NYPA that commences on Jan. 1, 2014.

The power will be provided to Alcoa over a 30-year contract that includes a 10-year option to extend service beyond 2045.

The new 115-kilovolt substation that Alcoa will install at the Massena East site will provide power to the new potline, which keeps aluminum in liquid form, as well as other equipment. The new substation, which will replace a more than half-century-old facility, will be located in an area now occupied by the three 115-kV transmission lines, which are being relocated.

Nearly one-mile long sections of each power line will be moved, with the work scheduled to begin early next month for completion in November. The power-line relocation is provided for under a 2011 agreement in which Alcoa will reimburse NYPA for the engineering, procurement and construction costs.

An Au Sable Forks company in Clinton County, Northline Utilities, will provide materials, installation and testing services for the transmission-line relocation under a competitively awarded $2.13 million contract with NYPA.

Alcoa has been a customer of the Power Authority’s since St. Lawrence-FDR was first placed into commercial operation in 1958.

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