WILLMAR — While usually receiving checks from customers, Willmar Municipal Utilities was doing the giving this week.

In conjunction with Missouri River Energy's Bright Energy Solutions, Willmar Municipal Utilities gave Ridgewater College a $10,000 rebate for installing a new energy-efficient chiller for its air-conditioning system at the Willmar campus.

"It is a very generous rebate," said Dan Holtz, Vice President of Finance and Operations for Ridgewater.

The rebate was presented at the Nov. 25 Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission meeting,

The new system serves the Fine Arts, Library, Science and Administration buildings on campus. The older equipment had finally given out in June 2018, after approximately 27 years.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The school used repair and replacement funds to pay for the $345,300 project. The school budgets for repair projects annually, Holtz said.

The new system, a 200-ton York chiller from Midwest Mechanical Solutions, is much more efficient than the old one. This increased energy efficiency made it eligible for a rebate.

"We really appreciate this," Holtz said.

Willmar Municipal Utilities offers its residential and commercial customers a variety of rebates. For residential customers, there are rebates for heating and cooling systems, LED lighting and Energy Star-rated appliances — such as clothes washers, dehumidifiers and refrigerators.

Commercial customers can also apply for rebates for items such as compressed air, commercial refrigeration and food service, heating and cooling and lighting for both new construction and retrofit.

A list of available rebates can be found on the utilities website at wmu.willmar.mn.us/energy-programs/rebates/.

Even if there isn't a specific rebate for a project, customers should still call. Custom rebates are available.

"Any project with energy savings, they should call us," said General Manager John Harren. "Ridgewater was a custom rebate based on energy savings."

Willmar Municipal Utilities also urges customers who are planning to apply for a rebate this year to do so before Dec. 31, since rebate programs are subject to change.

One new rebate that will soon become available is for electric vehicle chargers.

"These are on the horizon," Harren said.

Willmar Municipal Utilities has offered its customers rebates for nearly a decade now, since the state started recommending utilities spend 1.5 percent of its revenue on energy-saving programs. While large utilities are mandated to do so, Willmar offers rebates voluntarily.

"Customers have been calling more and more. Word is getting out" about the rebates, said Michelle Marotzke, energy services and marketing representative.

Offering rebates, which rewards people for using less energy, might seem like a strange thing for a utility to do. Harren said it is part of the mission as a public utility.

"What business pays people to use less of their product?" Harren said. "We try to help our customers save money."