WMU

(Willmar MN-) After 100 years, Tuesday is the last day for Willmar Municipal Utility's District Heat program. It began as a way to heat businesses in the downtown area using steam generated by the power plant at 7th Street and Litchfield Avenue. In the 1980s the program was greatly expanded, but due to the expense of maintaining the equipment, WMU decided in 2017 to discontinue the program and gave customers 3 years to disconnect. Those 3 years are up come July 1st. General Manager John Harren says at it's peak there were about 400 customers of district heat, and as of June 10th there were still about 60 customers who had yet to find an alternate heat source...

...in addition to hundreds of homes, places like the Kandiyohi County Courthouse, WEAC building and many businesses downtown used district heat. Harren says as the number of district heat customers dwindled, and the price of natural gas dropped, Willmar Municipal Utilities decided to decommission the power plant. They haven't bought coal in 3 years, and the plant hasn't generated electricity for the last 2 years. The steam for the remaining district heat customers came from a rented boiler. Harren says they are now in the process of determining what needs to be done to decommission the power plant, the cost, and possible future uses...

...As for energy usage in June, Harren says there have been half-a-dozen says in the 90s or warmer, pushing the utility's output past it's peak, although a new overall peak record hasn't been set.