Allegheny County moves to supply its public facilities with renewable hydropower generated locally | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County moves to supply its public facilities with renewable hydropower generated locally

click to enlarge A hydro-electric dam
A hydro-electric dam
As of Jan. 28, Allegheny County has entered into a 35-year power purchase agreement with a company that will provide renewable hydropower for county facilities. The county will purchase renewable energy from a low-impact hydropower facility that will be built by Rye Development. The hydropower facility is set to start construction later this year at the dam in Emsworth. The new plant, situated on the Ohio River, is expected to be operational as early as mid-2023.

Each year, this plant and the energy Allegheny County purchases from it will offset the equivalent of 3,400 homes-worth of emissions, according to a press release. In the full 35 years of the agreement, that is more than 1 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions.

“This is a landmark day for our county,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a press statement. “This announcement renews our commitment to the environment, our commitment to addressing climate change, and is an investment in our future generations.”


In addition to Rye’s initial commitment to producing clean energy in the county, the company is also developing a total of 10 hydropower projects across Southwestern Pennsylvania on all three major rivers. Rye hopes these efforts will further increase proper infrastructure for renewable energy in the region.

This also comes at a time when, just outside Allegheny County, a petrochemical cracker plant is being build on the Ohio River in Beaver County. It will refine natural gas into plastic pellets and is permitted by the state to emit 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of adding the emissions of more than 480,000 cars to the region.

According to a press release, to ensure the protection of the Ohio River’s natural ecosystems, Rye will also be pursuing project certification from the Low Impact Hydro Institute, a nonprofit organization whose set criteria for characterizing and certifying hydropower facilities that are low impact.

This comes just days after Pittsburgh’s air quality met federal health standards for the first time ever. Allegheny County has struggled with poor air quality warnings and a high rate of deaths linked to air quality for years.


But earlier this week, for the first time in its history, all of the county's air quality monitors were in compliance with the federal standards for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, and particulate matter.

“Allegheny County continues to demonstrate its leadership with forward thinking projects that benefit residents, the environment, and the local economy,” says Joylette Portlock of Sustainable Pittsburgh in a press release. “Investing in large scale renewable energy is a major step towards responsibly addressing climate change in southwestern Pennsylvania and invests in the health and the future of our communities.”

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