- The city of Red Wing, Minnesota recently received council approval for nearly $7.7 million worth of contracts that are key to a $12.54 million refuse-derived fuel upgrade at its solid waste campus. The project is coming together after many years of planning by Red Wing, Goodhue County, the state of Minnesota and fuel customer Xcel Energy.
- Material has already been committed by Goodhue County and the city of Hastings, ensuring stable financial footing. The construction itself is being funded by $3 million from the state, $2 million from Xcel Energy, $1.56 million from a fire-related insurance settlement and the remainder in bonds.
- RRT Design & Construction, the project manager and engineer, has worked with the city throughout the process. Equipment is being supplied by CP Group and SSI Shredding Systems. City officials expect the facility to open by September 2019 and eventually ramp up to an annual capacity of 30,000 tons by 2022.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is known for policy drivers that favor waste-to-energy (WTE) concepts over landfills. The state has run a Closed Landfill Program since 1994, which helps cover post-closure costs for eligible sites. Following 2014 legislation, Red Wing is now able to receive "significant liability relief" for post-closure costs at its Bench Street Landfill — provided the site stops accepting material by the end of 2018.
“Minnesota actually does more than just say they adopt a hierarchy. They actually provided regulations, incentives and assistance to communities to achieve the hierarchy — whereas other states do everything possible to be not supportive or helpful in waste-to-energy," Nat Egosi, President and CEO of RRT, told Waste Dive in an interview.
That potential future cost savings, coupled with the need for an upgrade at the city's former incinerator building, prompted a larger rethink. And when a June 2017 fire destroyed about half of the current building, officials had to come up with another plan to rebuild the site's tipping area, maintenance shop and administrative offices. While this presented a setback, it also opened up new opportunities in configuring the project.
In addition to having an increased throughput, the facility will also expand its recycling capabilities. Once complete, the new operation will recover any recyclables left in MSW loads as well as process single-stream recyclables on rotating shifts. Red Wing doesn't currently have a local MRF, so this aims to help reduce transportation costs and create new financial opportunities.
“It opens up a sharing of cost for this facility by also sharing services of disposal and reduces what otherwise would have been landfilled," said Egosi. “This is going to open up recycling opportunities to a wider group of people."
While another refuse-derived fuel (RDF) facility in Minnesota's Elk River recently announced plans to close, it has a different model both technically and financially than the Red Wing concept. Instead, Egosi equated this project with another WTE facility in the northern city of Perham. The main difference is that, once created, the RDF from Red Wing will be transported offsite to a separate Xcel facility in Newport for power generation.
These comparisons indicate that the criteria behind a successful mixed waste processing or WTE concept are truly local. Minnesota may be among the more proactive states when it comes to these types of technologies, but it also has a number of active landfills with, in some cases, many years of capacity remaining. By pursuing an integrated waste management system modeled after state priorities, Red Wing aims to show that it's possible to take a different approach.