Waste to energy


Great River Energy is notifying the public that the Elk River Resource Processing Plant, located at 10700 165th Avenue NW, Elk River, MN will no longer be accepting any solid waste materials after Jan. 15, 2019.

Read additional information about the closing of the Elk River Resource Recovery Project

Alternative solid waste disposal facilities are listed below.

Elk River Landfill

22460 Highway 169, Elk River, Minnesota

MSW and C&D materials

Vonco II Landfill

15301 140th Avenue, Becker, Minnesota

C&D materials

Pine Bend Landfill

2495 East 117th Street, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota


Lake Area Landfill

W5987 County Highway D, Sarona, WI



Elk River Resource Recovery Project: Turning waste into energy

Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, (hydrogen) gas and alcohol fuels. In Minnesota waste-to-energy power plants, such as Great River Energy’s Elk River Energy Recovery Station, are considered biomass plants.

Elk River Energy Recovery Station: a waste-to-energy power plant

Waste-to-energy plants, like 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.

How the plant works

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.

Download a PDF of the ERRRP fact sheet

Environmental performance

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 320,000 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.


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 320,000 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.

Elk River Resource Processing Plant

This is the facility where the municipal solid waste used to make refuse-derived fuel for powering Great River Energy’s Elk River Energy Recovery Station is processed. Refuse derived fuel (RDF) is a renewable energy source.

Each day, municipal solid waste from Anoka, Hennepin and Sherburne counties is delivered to the Elk River Resource Processing Plant in Elk River, Minn. Steel, aluminum and items that cannot be burned are removed and the remaining waste is chopped up before it is delivered to Elk River Energy Recovery Station as RDF. All waste materials are either recycled or processed for fuel.

Over the course of a year, up to 320,000 tons of municipal solid waste is transformed into RDF. The RDF is hauled to the Elk River Energy Recovery Station where it is burned to generate enough electricity to power as many as 25,000 homes each year. By converting municipal solid waste to RDF we are able to generate electricity from a renewable resource while minimizing the waste that goes to a landfill, benefiting both our customers and the environment.