Finding a use for ash

Like most Midwestern utilities, Great River Energy uses coal to generate the bulk of the electricity on its system. Coal-generated electricity is reliable, abundant and affordable, but it generates large amounts of ash.

Great River Energy has long had a plan to find industrial applications for its ash. For example, fly ash, the fine ash produced when coal is burned, is used throughout the region to replace a portion of Portland cement in concrete production. Not only does this process make use of a product which would otherwise be stored in a landfill, it produces a more durable concrete.

Great River Energy markets the fly ash produced from its coal-based power plants through Headwaters Resources.

Increased use of fly ash results in less land disturbed for quarrying raw materials, less land taken out of production for landfills, and less carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere (to make cement). In fact, using one ton of fly ash instead of Portland cement reduces one ton of greenhouse gas emissions.

In some cases, coal ash has been falsely labeled as ”toxic”, despite the fact that it is no more harmful than other common materials it replaces.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated that it is considering classifying coal ash as a “hazardous waste.”

Great River Energy is concerned that the stigma created by incorrectly labeling coal ash may make people less likely to use the materials.

The EPA may publish draft proposed rules for coal ash disposal as early as next month.

In response to recent efforts to limit uses of coal ash, Great River Energy has joined Citizens for Recycling, an organization that defends the safe and beneficial recycling of coal ash.

Great River Energy markets more than 450,000 tons of fly ash annually.

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