Tampa Electric expects expansion of chiller plants in Miami-Dade
By Marilyn Bowden
The new owners of the downtown Miami chiller plant developed by Florida Power & Light Energy Services may be building other plants in the area, officials say.
TECO BGA, a unit of Tampa Electric Co.'s TECO Solutions, bought the district cooler at Northeast First Avenue and 11th Street last October.
"We did acquire the franchise agreement with the city," said Michelle Machado-Bozman, manager of marketing for TECO Solutions, "and are looking at other sites."
"This acquisition is extremely attractive to us for a variety of reasons," said TECO BGA President Michael Gibson. "Not only does it provide for a stronger presence in the growing South Florida energy market, but it also brings valuable long-term contract business, a franchise agreement with the City of Miami and the potential for expansion."
FPL sold the plant due to a strategy change, said spokesperson John Heaney.
"We're focusing more on investments," he said, "and the plant fit with TECO's growth strategy."
FPL had envisioned a three-plant system for the downtown area, Mr. Heaney said, and had been scouting locations in the Brickell area in hopes of selling its services to the new office buildings going up in the area.
TECO BGA has not yet identified potential sites for future development, Ms. Machado-Bozman said.
District cooling or "chiller" systems generate chilled water piped underground to air-condition commercial and mixed-use facilities.
Ms. Machado-Bozman said it cuts energy costs for businesses by avoiding upfront capital equipment expenditures and ongoing maintenance and repair required by in-house chillers.
The Miami facility, capable of providing service to buildings from the central business district north to 20th Street, is used by American Airlines Arena and the Technology Center of the Americas.
Mr. Heaney said current clients use about a third of its capacity.
It operates with five water-cooled chillers, 14 water pumps with a combined motor capacity of 2,155 horsepower, two cooling towers capable of rejecting 5,000 tons of heat and one ice storage tank that holds 17,280 ton-hours of ice.
At the time of the acquisition, Ms. Machado-Bozman said, TECO BGA formed a new subsidiary, TECO Thermal Systems, to handle a growing district-cooler business. Tampa Electric also owns and operates a chiller in Tampa's Ybor City, she said, that was Florida's first third-party-owned and -operated district cooler to serve multiple clients. Developed in conjunction with Tampa Bay Trane, the Ybor chiller serves three buildings on the campus of Hillsborough Community College, the new Centro Ybor entertainment complex, Ybor Square and the Hilton Garden Inn.
In addition, Ms. Machado-Bozman said, TECO BGA has completed energy-saving projects for a variety of commercial, industrial and governmental clients throughout Florida, including the US Navy, University Community Hospital, Escambia County School District and BellSouth.