Stewardship

Environmental stewardship

Great River Energy has an ongoing commitment to manage the environmental aspects of its operations in a way that minimizes its impact to the environment. This dedication is demonstrated by the inclusion of environmental sustainability in our mission statement, a commitment to renewable energy, various stewardship activities and maintenance of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 registration of our generation and transmission facilities.

In 1999, Great River Energy established an environmental policy that is reviewed annually and continues to guide employee conduct. This environmental policy is an integral part of the Great River Energy culture.

Environmental management systems and ISO 14001 registrations

Great River Energy has developed and implemented environmental management systems (EMS) that cover operations at our power generation facilities and our entire transmission division.

LEED-certified facilities

Great River Energy has several facilities that have achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED is the nationally accepted rating system for buildings that demonstrate energy efficiency and sustainability.

Minimizing the impact of our transmission system

Environmental resources are among the first things we begin researching when we are looking for specific places to build a new power line. Working with local leaders, governmental agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources, and other environmental organizations is always an important part of our process.

We work hard to balance environmental considerations, engineering standards and landowner input with our responsibility to provide our members with safe, reliable electric service. Although avoiding environmental impacts altogether is not always possible, we strive to minimize environmental impacts on every project by:

  • Scheduling some construction projects in the winter months to minimize impact to vegetation and wetlands
  • Working with property owners to find suitable replacement species if tree removal is necessary
  • Striving to build in an existing right-of-way
  • Attempting to restore the land as closely as possible to its original condition

Third-party compliance audits

In addition to other management tools, Great River Energy proactively employs third-party auditors to conduct audits to assess its compliance and operational controls with the goal of continual environmental improvement. Great River Energy also is periodically inspected by regulatory agencies. The organization’s auditing program is a substantive review and check of the effectiveness of its environmental compliance program. Great River Energy uses audits to ensure continued compliance and the integrity of its programs. All major environmental compliance areas (i.e., air, water, waste, etc.) are audited on a revolving six-year schedule.

Emissions

Great River Energy continuously strives to reduce the air emissions from its power plants. In 2012, the DryFiningTM system provided further significant reductions in Coal Creek Station emissions.

Learn more about our DryFining (lignite fuel enhancement) system 

Coal Creek Station began using DryFined coal in 2010, reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) by more than 40 percent, nitrogen oxides (NOx) by more than 20 percent, and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 4 percent.

Research

Great River Energy is an active participant in industry research. Facing a future of growing energy demand, utilities must examine new and innovative ways to generate electricity and minimize the environmental impact of energy production.

Great River Energy is one of 12 utilities that contributed to PRISM 2.0, a follow‐up to the Electric Power Research Institute’s 2007 PRISM and MERGE analyses. The first PRISM and MERGE analyses provided a comprehensive assessment of potential carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions, and other emission reductions, in eight key electricity technology areas, but did not take into account regional differences in technologies, policies and economic costs.

PRISM 2.0 presents a picture of a carbon-constrained future for electric utilities, including projections of the cost of electricity and analysis of the viability of different fuel sources, depending on technological advancements and geographical differences. By projecting many macroeconomic and technological variables, PRISM 2.0 will help Great River Energy respond to changes in the utility environment and plan for the future.

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalization of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, in addition to portions of the Regional Haze implementation plans, Great River Energy is facing multi-pollutant reductions in the next several years. As such, it has been critical for Great River Energy to assess possible options and their associated impacts. A Great River Energy team applied a series of EPRI reports and guidelines that document the state-of-the technology in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) and criteria pollutant controls. These guidelines and reports were used to help map out the potential full scale strategies to assess the viability of combining various options to meet a multitude of emissions limits. Subsequently, full-scale tests have been performed at Stanton Station and Coal Creek Station to provide valuable information for long-term capital and compliance planning.

Beneficial reuse of fly ash

Another way Great River Energy minimizes the environmental impact of its operations is through the reuse of fly ash produced at its coal-fueled generation facilities. Fly ash is the fine ash produced when coal is burned in power plants. High-quality fly ash is used throughout the Upper Midwest to replace a portion of Portland cement in concrete production and for other beneficial uses. Replacing one ton of Portland cement with fly ash can reduce up to one ton of greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling and waste reduction

Great River Energy maintains a comprehensive recycling program that is designed to collect and track the recycling of many different waste materials across its locations. In 2012, we recycled more than 1.2 million pounds of materials.

In 2012, 64.8 percent of the waste generated at our Maple Grove, Minnesota headquarters facility was recycled. This facility is equipped with a state-of-the-art recycling system that allows employees and visitors to recycle paper products, mixed beverage containers and organic (food) waste at various locations throughout the building.

Additionally, our Elk River Resource Processing Plant (RPP) processes up to 300,000 tons of municipal solid waste each year. This process separates valuable recyclables and creates a suitable fuel for our waste-to-energy facility. In 2012, RPP separated and recycled over 21 million pounds of ferrous and non-ferrous metal.

Renewable energy

Wind energy

Solar Energy

Biomass and waste recycling