Elk River Energy Recovery Station: a waste-to-energy power plant
Waste-to-energy plants, such as Elk River Energy Recovery Station convert refuse derived fuel (RDF) from mixed municipal waste into energy. Using waste to generate electricity provides an efficient disposal method for garbage and prevents garbage from going to landfills.Watch a video about the Elk River Resource Recovery Project »
Every day, up to 1,500 tons of municipal waste arrives at the Elk River Resource Processing Plant. Recyclable steel, aluminum and items that cannot be burned are removed; the remaining waste is processed into RDF and it is delivered to the power plant. The RDF is then burned to generate the high pressure steam needed to power the plant’s generators.
This fuel is considered a biomass fuel, similar to plant matter and animal waste. Municipal waste is a renewable resource and using it to generate electricity helps conserve natural resources such as oil, coal and natural gas.
Elk River Energy Recovery Station’s three generators produce up to 29 megawatts of electricity from up to 1,000 tons of processed municipal solid waste called refuse-derived fuel.
The power plant began commercial operation in 1950, utilizing coal and oil. In 1963, it was converted to a nuclear power plant, before being changed back to operate on coal and oil in 1968. The plant was then converted on August 19, 1989, to operate on RDF.
As a waste-to-energy power plant, the Elk River Energy Recovery Station meets the definition of biomass energy in Minnesota. The renewable energy classification recognizes that the Elk River Energy Recovery Station is environmentally safe and beneficial to the residents of Minnesota by converting waste material into electrical energy.
To help meet stringent regulations, the plant uses an efficient combustion process which is designed to prevent the formation of dioxins in the combustion process. The power plant also uses special environmental equipment to treat the smoke and gases formed in incinerating the RDF. As a result, emissions from the Elk River Energy Recovery Station are low.
Following the combustion process, approximately 20 percent of the RDF remains in the form of ash which is trucked to the state-approved Becker ash landfill in Becker, Minn. Because much of the RDF is utilized at Elk River Energy Recovery Station, the plant reduces the amount of waste entering landfills in Minnesota by as much as 300,000 tons per year. In addition, creating RDF instead of disposing the waste in a landfill eliminates the methane (a highly active greenhouse gas) that is generated when the waste is buried.Facts
Location: Elk River, Minnesota
Generating capability: 29 MW
Initial operation: 1951 with retrofit in 1989.
Fuel used: Since construction in the early 1950s, the plant has used several fuels, including coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear energy, tire chips and wood chips. It currently combusts RDF.
RDF consumption: as much as 1,000 tons per day.
Landfill waste reduced: as much as 300,000 tons per year.
CO2 emissions avoided: as much as 140,000 tons per year.
Electrical production: as much as 170,000 megawatt hours per year.