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Clean Hydropower to be Added to Area Rivers

The clean energy-producing power of the region’s three rivers is about to be tapped with the construction of hydropower generation facilities by a private developer.

Rye Development, a Florida-based hydropower developer, announced recently that it has reached an agreement with leading data-storage company Iron Mountain to sell up to 150 megawatts (MW) of power over the next 10 years from Rye’s hydroelectric projects in the region in the PJM wholesale market. While typical power purchase agreements (PPA) involve a buyer purchasing energy from a single renewable project for a set time, the deal with Iron Mountain, which requires large amounts of power for its operations, will involve several projects that will send their power to the PJM regional electric grid, where the company will access it.

“The offtake agreement, the first of its kind for the hydropower industry, significantly shortens the time required to execute a clean energy PPA while providing both the buyer and seller the certainty they need to meet their business and climate goals,” the Rye Development press release states.

“By unlocking the potential of numerous low-impact hydro projects, we can work with Iron Mountain to meet their 100% 24/7 renewable energy goals,” Rye CEO Paul Jacob said. Hydropower relies on the force generated by moving water to spin a propeller-style blades that then spin a generator, creating electricity.

Rye Development’s strategy is based on modernizing existing dams that are used for flood control, navigation or irrigation to add power-generating capabilities.

Rye already had plans to build hydroelectric power projects at the Montgomery Lock and Dam in Beaver County and at the Emsworth Lock and Dam near Neville Island on the Ohio River and at the Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2 near Highland Park on the Allegheny River to provide power for Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh using PPAs.

The latest announcement will involve a number of projects with a total investment of about $1 billion in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Business Times reported that the deal will take in all the remaining projects Rye had in the development stage in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

That will mean adding hydroelectric capabilities at the Gray’s Landing, Point Marion, Maxwell, and Monongahela No. 4 dams on the Monongahela River in Washington and Greene counties, as well as Morgantown and Opekiska dams in West Virginia.

“Across renewable energy sources, run-of-river projects have some of the lowest lifecycle CO2 per kilowatt hour of generation,” the press release states. The facilities are also low impact, meeting environmental and commercial requirements.

Rye Development also has a portfolio of pumped energy storage projects, “Closed-loop pumped storage facilities have two reservoirs at different elevations connected by a pipe with reversible turbines. When demand for electricity is low, excess solar or wind energy is used to pump water from the lower to the upper reservoir. When demand for electricity is high, water is released from the upper reservoir and flows downhill. The water spins turbines to generate electricity.

Then the facility repeats this cycle, continually storing and dispatching clean energy,” the Rye website states.

Pumped storage facilities are the most common form of energy storage in the U.S., representing 95% of all utility scale storage, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.

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