21 Aug 2014
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Group Seeks Purchase of RELAC Cooling System

Local men want to take Lake Anne's unique water-run system back from Aqua Virginia.

Group Seeks Purchase of RELAC Cooling System

A group of local businessmen is putting together a bid to purchase Reston's RELAC system from Aqua Virginia and improve and operate the aging water-based cooling system near Lake Anne.

RELAC - or Reston Lake Anne Air Conditioning Corporation - has been the cooling system for about 300 Lake Anne-area homes since the mid-1960s. The system is powered by recirculated lake water from Lake Anne.

Touted as state-of-the-art when it was built, nearly 50 years later it is oft-criticized for being inefficient.

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The proposal, filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission in October, says the new RELAC Reston group will purchase the operation back from  Aqua Virginia, which has run the system for nearly 10 years. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

Principals of Reston RELAC are Michael Coleman, Craig Nyman, and Mark Waddell. Coleman has operated the Reston Lake Anne system for 11 years and has extensive knowledge of the Reston Lake Anne system, according to the filing. Coleman has also been the onsite heating and cooling plant manager for a large hospital. 

Nyman worked with Potomac Electric Power Company for 14 years as an energy consultant doing in-house energy surveys and system improvement plans.  He has also worked as consultant on a rate hearing with the Public Service Commission in Washington DC and owned a small business in the energy field.  Mark Waddell is a RELAC customer with extensive business and technical experience.

The group hopes to keep RELAC rates the same (about $1,000 annually). It is hoping the sale will be approved by the end of February.

Reston RELAC says in the filing it is seeking to take back RELAC because "the services provided to Reston Lake Anne customers are not part of Aqua Virginia's core business of supplying drinking water and wastewater services."

"Certain functions and knowledge required to facilitate Reston Lake Anne's operations and customer service needs are unique and do not easily fit within Aqua Virginia's support functions," the group says. "The specialized knowledge required to service the Reston Lake Anne's customers is better served by a company located wholly within the Reston Lake Anne footprint in Reston Virginia."

RELAC Reston says its goals are:

*  Maintain the viability and existence of Reston Lake Anne to continue to operate as an air-conditioning company and benefit the folks of Reston for years to come.

*  Continue the operations of a truly unique system that supports the foundation of the Reston community and intended to provide a centralized air conditioning service to the citizens located around Lake Anne with very little noise pollution.

* Develop one of Reston's original environmentally friendly systems and move it forward with modem technology.

The group says it will install cooling towers by Spring 2014 to boost the system during the hottest part of the year. Aqua Virginia has talked about installing cooling towers since 2005, but the plans never came to fruition.

Ken Knueven, Reston Association Lake Anne/Tall Oaks director and a RELAC customer, said he likes what he knows of RELAC Reston so far.

"Most people agree this is an interesting, neat idea," said Knueven. "If done right, it will be neat see locals take control of it."

Knueven says he is organizing a meeting with condo and cluster presidents so they can get more information about the plan. Those meetings will likely occur next week. 

"One question I would have is 'are you financially capable?' " said Knueven. "Other than that, it has got to be an improvement over Aqua Virginia."

Read more:

Low Lake Anne Levels' Impact on RELAC

Are you a RELAC customer? Do you think this will be an improvement? Tell us in the comments.

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