By Anthony Hennen
(The Center Square) — A state-backed hydroelectric plant is on track to come to the former steel town of Braddock, but permitting delays have slowed the project and driven up costs.
The Thursday meeting of the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority, an independent public financing entity that funds “clean, advanced energy projects,” featured upbeat officials on the success of their funded projects, but also noted the slow pace of bureaucracy can slow down a project.
“Anybody who’s ever been involved with a hydroelectric project knows that they take a long time to get from concept to permitted to construction,” PEDA Acting Executive Director Geoff Bristow said. “This has been no different, other than there’s been some additional delays.”
The Hydro Green Energy project would retrofit seven turbine-generators at the Braddock Locks and Dam to produce 5.25 megawatts of electricity.
The delays, Bristow noted, are related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and PJM Interconnection processes. They’re not “showstoppers,” he said, but “it does have things delayed.”
PEDA first awarded a $500,000 grant to the project in 2014, and the Department of Environmental Protection has approved annual grant extensions since 2019 due to the delays. Officials expect construction to start “in the best scenario” in June 2024, which means another grant extension will be required.
“This project has — as you can imagine, in the last 9 years — has increased in price substantially,” Bristow said.
Hydro Green Energy filed its notice of intent in December 2011 and more than a dozen documents followed that were related to a license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a Pittsburgh public meeting, environmental assessment, responses to FERC for additional information, environmental analysis, and license order through 2015.
The company also has preliminary permits for eight other dams across Pennsylvania.
The commonwealth generates 2.7 million megawatt hours of hydropower (about 30% of the commonwealth’s renewable energy, trailing wind power), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and “has the potential to add more than 600 megawatts” of capacity, with 80 megawatts of new hydropower expected by 2026.
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square news wire service, covering Pennsylvania, and co-host of Pennsylvania in Focus, a weekly podcast on America’s Talking Network. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.
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