Air conditioning plan promises savings in downtown Clearwater - FOX 13 News

Air conditioning plan promises savings in downtown Clearwater

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More than a dozen big buildings in downtown Clearwater will soon be stitched together by cold water pipes -- very cold water, chilled for use by the various buildings' air conditioning systems.

Right now, each structure has its own water chiller. They will all be replaced by a $14 million district cooling plant.

"Just like you pay an electric bill, they're just going to be paying for chilled water service," county real estate management director Paul Sacco told FOX 13 News, "December of 2014 is when we think the plant will be online."

Pinellas County commissioners informally approved the project at a workshop Tuesday. Sacco said that clears the way to solicit customers. Their needs must be calculated into the final plumbing design.

"We can keep adding on chillers at the energy plant, but we don't want to be digging up the road more than once," he said. "So we want to size those lines correctly."

So far, letters of interest have been sent by a downtown condominium and the City of Clearwater, which may use the chilled water at city hall, the downtown library and the police station.

The concept has been used elsewhere for decades.

"It really does help," Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said. "Sometimes, we get into trouble with cutting edge technologies. My confidence level goes up when we're working with something that has a very good history behind it."

The county estimates its own savings at about $1 million in operational costs, plus another $3.8 million over 25 years in "cost avoidance."

Final design work awaits formal approval of the expenditure by the Board of County Commissioners.

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