After 27 years in operation, Great River Energy’s Elk River Resource Processing Plant (ERRPP) received its 10 millionth ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) this April. Most of that waste has been used to generate biomass energy at the Maple Grove, Minn.-based not-for-profit electric cooperative.
ERRPP processes MSW into fuel for Great River Energy’s Elk River Energy Recovery Station (ERERS), which is a renewable waste-to-energy power plant that operates around the clock. Great River Energy sends very little MSW to the landfill—about 12 percent of the waste was landfilled during the first 20 years of the project.
“The plant processes municipal waste into refuse-derived fuel, which is converted into electrical energy at our Elk River Station power plant,” says Tim Steinbeck, director of resource recovery for Great River Energy.
According to a video released by Great River Energy, up to 1,500 tons of municipal waste arrives at the ERRPP every day. Recyclable steel, aluminum and items that cannot be burned are removed and the remaining waste is processed into RDF before being delivered to the power plant. The RDF is then burned to generate the high pressure steam needed to power the plant’s generators.
That MSW comes from Hennepin, Sherburne and Anoka counties in Minnesota. It generates 30 megawatts of energy, enough to power 25,000 homes, once processed through the power plant.
“Great River Energy’s Elk River Resource Recovery Project, which includes the recovery station and the power plant, generates electricity for our 28 distribution cooperatives, which serve approximately 665,000 customers in Minnesota,” says Steinbeck.
The steel, aluminum and items that were removed in the process because they cannot be burned are recycled. A bulky waste shredder installed at the plant in 2012 allows large items to be shredded to make additional refuse-derived fuel and recover more metal.
Each year, the facility removes about 9,000 tons of steel and 1,500 tons of aluminum. Those materials are then sold, which generates revenue for Great River Energy’s member cooperatives.
“The magnitude of 10 million tons of garbage is staggering and equivalent to about 96 million curbside garbage carts—enough that if set side by side it would circle the earth three times,” said Matt Herman, manager of ERRPP, in a statement. “This is a tremendous amount of material that is used for beneficial purposes while minimizing waste that goes to a landfill. It’s a ‘win-win’ for our members and the environment.”