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.

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A commitment to 50% by 2030

In 2018, Great River Energy voluntarily set a goal to serve its all-requirements member-owner cooperatives with energy that is 50 percent renewable by 2030. We are well on our way toward meeting this new goal.

The 2007 Minnesota Legislature adopted a renewable energy standard requiring that at least 25 percent of electric utility annual energy sales come from renewable energy by 2025. Great River Energy met Minnesota’s renewable energy standard of 25 percent renewable energy in 2017 – eight years ahead of the state’s requirement.

We have 669 megawatts of wind energy in our portfolio. That amount is expected to more than double by 2022.

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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.

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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.

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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. Our DryFiningTM system provides further significant reductions in Coal Creek Station and Spiritwood Station emissions.

Coal Creek Station began using the refined 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.

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EPA risk-based approval to dispose of <50 ppm PCB remediation waste

On Feb. 13, 2020, United States Environmental Protection Agency renewed the risk-based approval, pursuant to 40 CFR 761.61(c), for disposal of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) remediation waste, originally issued on June 10, 2014, to the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) member companies. Great River Energy is a USWAG member company, as listed in Appendix II of the approval. This approval allows for disposal of non-liquid PCB remediation waste generated at secure utility assets, with as-found PCB concentrations <50 parts per million (ppm), in non-TSCA approved landfill facilities, including municipal solid waste landfills, as described in Condition 9 of the approval. EPA believes the approved disposal method, provided all conditions of the approval are met, will not result in an unreasonable risk to health or the environment.

View the approval

Individuals seeking additional information regarding this approval may contact:  Greg Archer, manager, environmental services, Great River Energy at  763-445-5206  or garcher@GREnergy.com