By Jianqi Zhou
I believe many of you may be scratching heads while you look at the title. Isn’t Niagara Falls well-known as one of the natural wonders in the world? At least, that was what we were told all the time. How come would anyone question it? Eventually, there is not a definitive source for the Seven Wonder of the World, but many regards that Niagara Falls should be on the list.
Niagara Falls, as one of the most magnificent falls in the world, attracts more than 8 million visitors to come to WNY every year. Tourism not only creates countless economic benefits but also provide multitudinous employment opportunity to the locals. Due to its unique geographic location, it is also a significant national boundary mark that districts the United States with Canada. Moreover, the hydroelectric development renders Niagara and Buffalo area become one of the most energy sustainable places.
The average flow rate of the current Niagara Falls is about 750,000 gallons per second. Horseshoe Falls takes 88% of the flow; American Falls takes 10%; Bridal Veil Falls only 2%. But the upstream flow rate of Niagara Falls is about 2 million gallons per second, roughly 60% of the flow is diverted for hydroelectricity generation. There are five major hydroelectric power plants stationed along the Falls: Robert Moses Power Plant (USA), Lewiston Pump Generating Plant (USA), Sir Adam Beck Pump Generating Station (Canada), Sir Adam Beck #1 and #2 (Canada). These power plants generate approximately 117.6-Gigawatt hour (1 Gigawatt hour = 1,000,000 kWh) of renewable energy every day, which is enough to power 3.8 million homes. The flow diversion also curbs the erosive action and thus the recession speed of the Falls.
Niagara Falls also has a long history of generating hydropower. Jacob Schoellkopf, a business genius, sold the power from his water turbines to power Charles Brush’s generator for illumination in 1881. The pioneering connection between water turbines and an electricity generator turned Niagara Falls into the birthplace of the first hydropower station in the world. With the rapid technology and economic development, the energy conversion efficiency of hydropower station gets better and the scales of the plant gets much bigger. Today, as New York State’s biggest electricity producers, Robert Moses Power Plant and Lewiston Pump Generating Plant provide more than 2.6 Gigawatts of clean electricity to the National Grid. According to the data from U.S Energy Information Administration, hydroelectric power accounted for 78% of New York state’s renewable electricity generation and 23% of the state’s total electricity generation in 2019. Thanks to Niagara Falls, New York State becomes the third-largest hydroelectricity producer in the nation (after Washington and Oregon).
Whether Niagara Falls is in the list of top 7 or not, Niagara Falls deserves the name of at least the 8th wonder in the world, and no doubt the NO.1 in WNYers’.
What do you think? Should Niagara Falls be on the list of The Seven Global Natural Wonders?