Allegheny County committed to locally generated renewable energy last week, entering into a 35-year power purchase agreement with Rye Development LLC to purchase renewable energy generated by a 17.8 MW low-impact hydropower facility Rye will construct on the Ohio River.
“This is a landmark day for our county,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. “This announcement renews our commitment to the environment, our commitment to addressing climate change and is an investment in our future generations.”
The collaboration with Rye addresses the region’s capacity issues, which remain one of the largest challenges to expanding renewable energy access, particularly with locally generated clean energy.
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, approximately equal to 2.6 billion miles driven in a typical passenger vehicle.
The facility will be located at the existing Emsworth Main Channel Dam with construction scheduled to begin in late 2021. Rye has collaborated with the Army Corps of Engineers (operator of the existing dam) on the project’s development, which will require the Corps’ approval before construction begins. The facility is expected to be operational as early as mid-2023.
“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,” Rye Development CEO Paul D. Jacob said.
Rye is currently developing a total of 10 hydropower projects in the southwestern Pennsylvania region on all three rivers. In its Emsworth project, Rye will also be pursuing certification from the Low Impact Hydro Institute as part of the company’s commitment to ensuring the local river ecosystem is preserved.
“Participating in a zero-carbon power generation project utilizing the power of our rivers, without impacting other uses of them or their quality, demonstrates the county’s leadership both in getting Pennsylvania to a decarbonized energy future and positioning southwest Pennsylvania as a center of energy innovation,” said Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “Significant climate action is going to take a combination of many approaches and actions. The commitment shown with this project takes us another step forward.”