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City of Pittsburgh MOU 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, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Duquesne Light Company, SmithGroup, RAND Corporation, Allegheny County, Buro Happold, SFPE Foundation, Forest Hills Borough, and Pittsburgh Quantum Institute (PQI). 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.

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.


MOU Benefits


  • 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.


  • Clearway Energy has begun designing a new heat and power plant in the Uptown District to deliver heat to surrounding buildings including PPG Paints Arena and UPMC Mercy.
    Brunot Island power station could 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.
  • There is a possibility for a Larimer Energy District, which would be a community-based microgrid that would be part of the redevelopment of a 285-acre neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End.
  • Hazelwood Green 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.
  • A long-term priority for Duquesne Light Company is to install a nominal 10 MWe microgrid at their Woods Run operations center on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The facility will be used to investigate challenges and solutions to integrating distributed energy technologies such as photovoltaics, wind, and energy storage. This project is on hold for the foreseeable future.

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.

Fuel Cell Energy Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) at Clearway Energy Center

2013 Energy Usage Analysis Overview

Southpointe Business Park & City of Pittsburgh's Almono District - Case Studies in Deep Direct Use of Geothermal Energy

Pittsburgh-Danish Energy Exchange


Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future

DOE Sunshot: Solar in Your Community

DOE Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities Program

Better Buildings Initiative

Pittsburgh 2030 District

Beyond Traffic: Smart City Challenge

Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership

NETL-City of Pittsburgh Partnership Collaborators

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden


Technology area contact:

James Ferguson

Technology area contact:

Thomas Tarka