Allegheny, Pa., County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced in late January that the county entered into a 35-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Rye Development for renewable energy generated by a 17.8-MW hydropower facility the company will construct on the Ohio River.
For each year that the agreement is in effect, the county will offset emissions equivalent to the entire electrical consumption of more than 3,400 households. Over the life of the agreement, the county’s purchases will offset over 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, roughly equal to 2.6 billion miles driven in a typical passenger vehicle.
The hydropower facility will be located at the existing Emsworth Main Channel Dam. Rye has collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the operator of the existing dam) on the project’s development, which requires the Corps’ approval before construction commences. The hydropower project is scheduled to begin construction in late 2021 and is expected to be operational as early as mid-2023.
“This is a landmark day for our county,” said Fitzgerald. “This announcement renews our commitment to the environment, our commitment to addressing climate change and is an investment in our future generations.”
The county says this collaboration with Rye addresses one of the largest challenges to expanding access to renewable energy, particularly locally-generated clean energy: capacity. The long-term commitment and partnership with Rye furthers the goal of a community powered by 100% renewable energy.
“This contract with the county not only demonstrates its leadership and commitment to a sustainable future, but also is integral to ensuring the successful construction and development of the Emsworth Main Channel Project,” said Paul D. Jacob, chief executive officer of Rye Development. “With this action, County Executive Fitzgerald has signaled to other stakeholders in the community that new hydropower on existing dams will provide 24/7 renewable energy while also resulting in local infrastructure investment.”
Rye is developing 10 hydropower projects in the southwestern Pennsylvania region on three rivers. Rye will also be pursuing certification of the project from the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) as part of its own commitment to ensure that the local river ecosystem is protected. Certified low-impact hydropower projects meet eight specific science-based environmental, cultural and recreational criteria.
The county says its journey to this announcement began with internal conversations about how to support the renewable energy industry while helping to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and fully renewable energies. A team reviewed a variety of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, but ultimately decided to pursue hydropower, considering it to be the most reliable renewable energy for the county.
In April 2019, the county issued a request for proposal for developers of hydro facilities. After vetting of the proposals and receiving the companies’ best and final offer, an informal intent to award was issued to Rye Development in late 2019. The county was advised by CustomerFirst Renewables (CFR), an advisory services firm headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., on the project and resulting PPA. CFR is a collaborator with Sustainable Pittsburgh through its Renewable Energy for the Power of 32 initiative.