project information

On July 17, 2015, NETL entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Pittsburgh. The initiative is being carried out by several executive and technical teams consisting of representatives from DOE, NETL, and the City of Pittsburgh. Additionally, a number of regional and local organizations that crosscut industry, private-sector, academia, and foundations are partnering in the work being performed under the MOU including: the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, the National Academies of Science, Duquesne Light, NRG Energy, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Peoples Gas, Oxford Development, Hillman Foundation, RK Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowment, and the RAND Corporation. The scope of the activities under the MOU will support Pittsburgh’s efforts to modernize its energy grid through a network of small-scale, distributed energy systems that will:

  • Operate in conjunction with or independently from the main electrical grid;
  • Have defined load;
  • Produce steam, water (hot and/or chilled), and/or electricity;
  • Operate by a variety of energy sources—e.g., renewables, clean fuel generation; and
  • Include a myriad of advanced distributed energy resources such as microturbines, direct current (DC) power delivery, combined heat and power (CHP), reciprocating engines, fuel cells, energy storage devices (e.g., batteries), advance power electronics, photovoltaics, and wind turbines.
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Having communities organized into districts that are served by locally produced, low-carbon power, can boost reliability and efficiency while significantly reducing environmental impacts in comparison with the traditional method of having power pulled from the larger older generation and distribution grid that is fed by distant power plants and long-range transmission lines. The city is uniquely positioned to implement a network of microgrids because of the topography of Pittsburgh and its preexistent distributed energy sites.

If successful in Pittsburgh, the new energy system will have a variety of benefits for energy generation and distribution including increased reliability, improved economics, enhanced security, improved environment, and accelerated innovation. The concept could serve as a model for other cities adapting to the challenges of a changing energy paradigm and establish the city as a global leader in energy innovation and technology demonstration and deployment. The challenge ahead is to organize those existing distributed energy systems and help them interconnect through new “energy districts” within the city.

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The five existing distributed energy systems that the City and NETL see as energy districts that could serve as a spine for future network of microgrid development are:

  • Pittsburgh Allegheny County Thermal (PACT), established in 1983 to serve 59 buildings downtown including many local government buildings. This site will support the Downtown Energy District.
  • Duquesne University’s Cogeneration Plant, which began operations in 1997 and produces 85 percent of the electricity used on a 50-acre campus. This site has potential to support the Uptown Energy District.
  • NRG Pittsburgh site, which began operations in 1999 and provides power to more than 30 buildings on the North Side. This site will support the Northshore Energy District.
  • Bellefield Boiler Plant, built in 1907 to serve most of Oakland’s major institutions, including Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. This site has potential to support the Oakland Energy District.
  • Carrillo Steam Plant in Oakland, which began operations in 2009 to serve the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). This site has potential to support the Oakland Energy District.

In addition, the City is in various stages of developing four new distributed energy /micrgrid projects:

  • NRG Energy has begun designing a new heat and power plant in the Uptown District to deliver heat to surrounding buildings including Consol Energy Center and UPMC Mercy
  • Brunot Island power station to serve commercial districts on Pittsburgh’s Northside
  • The 2nd Avenue Energy District project will combine garage and rooftop photovoltaic solar and battery storage with electric vehicle charging stations along the 2nd Avenue corridor from Homestead to downtown Pittsburgh.
  • Larimer Energy District, a community-based microgrid that would be part of the redevelopment of a 285-acre neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End
  • ALMONO Energy District, a mixed-use development in Hazelwood on a 178-acre former steel mill riverfront that would be operated almost exclusively on renewable-based distributed energy
  • Duquesne Light Company is installing a nominal 10 MWe microgrid at their Woods Run operations center on Pittsburgh’s Northside.  The facility will be used to investigate challenges and solutions to integrating distributed energy technologies such as photovoltaics, wind, and energy storage.  The microgrid is scheduled to be operational in late 2017

By assisting Pittsburgh with the initiatives associated with the MOU, focused on making Pittsburgh a Clean Energy City of the Future, NETL is helping to fulfill its mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.

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