The University of Pittsburgh’s first major commitment to renewable energy will utilize the Allegheny River as the source of clean, local and long-term electricity for the campus. Pitt has signed a letter of intent with Rye Development, LLC to purchase 100 percent of the power from a low-impact hydroelectric power plant to be built at the existing Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2, just below the Highland Park Bridge less than five miles from campus.
Expected to open in 2022, the facility will supply about 50,000 megawatt hours of power per year, which equates to 25 percent of electricity on the Pittsburgh campus. This investment will help Pitt to achieve its Sustainability Plan goal of 50 percent renewable energy for the campus by 2030, said Greg Scott, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for business and operations. “As a research institution and community partner, we are committed to leading by example with sustainable practices that will help future generations thrive in a world that is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically robust,” Scott said.
Pitt’s sustainability goals also include increased energy efficiency along with a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Dr. Aurora Sharrard, the University’s director of sustainability, said the projected amount of hydropower is the equivalent of taking nearly 8,000 cars off the road. “This commitment is a significant step toward meeting Pitt’s sustainability goals,” Dr. Sharrard said. “We’ve made great progress since 2008, already reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 22.2 percent for the 2017 fiscal year. Since purchased electricity is the biggest contributor to the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, it remains a key target for conservation, efficiency and ongoing source changes.”
Pitt also plans to use the hydropower facility as an outlet for research and learning opportunities.
“This is great news,” said Pitt student Sam Ressin, founder of the bipartisan climate advocacy student group Climate Stewardship Society and chair of the Pitt Green Fund. “Pitt students have been vocal advocates for sustainability and I’m pleased that Pitt is listening. Taking strong action to reduce carbon emissions ensures that we will have a livable world for generations to come,” said Ressin, a junior who is pursuing a joint major in economics and statistics in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and a Global Studies certificate in ecology and sustainability. “I’m proud to say my university is doing its part and leading by example.”
This low-impact hydro plant at Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2 will be the first of eight potential hydropower facilities planned by Rye to capture the energy from Pittsburgh’s three rivers. “Pitt’s leadership in sourcing a significant percentage of its power from Pittsburgh’s rivers is a positive step for the University and for the region as well,” said Paul D. Jacob, chief executive officer of Rye Development, LLC. “It’s been nearly three decades since a new hydropower facility was constructed on the Allegheny River. Pitt’s commitment to this first new source of clean, reliable energy helps set the stage for the addition of hydropower to more of the region’s existing locks and dams. “The University’s investment in local hydropower will benefit the campus, the region and the local economy for generations to come.”