BRADENTON -- Work continues on Manatee County's new "chiller plant," which could provide energy savings to downtown Bradenton government and business clients.
Among the as-yet unbuilt chiller plant's possible first clients could be the South Florida Museum and the city of Bradenton, which have signed letters of intent to participate with the county.
Two businesses, Suntrust Bank and the Bank of America, have expressed an interest, according to Charlie Bishop, the county's director of property management.
"I think the county's working on it, and we're sure excited about any future opportunities," said Brynne Anne Besio, executive director of the South Florida Museum and the Bishop Planetarium.
No estimate is yet available for how much the 75,000-square-foot museum could save if it signed a formal agreement to use water from the chiller plant to cool part of its building, she said.
In order to take advantage of the chiller plant's energy savings, a building must be cooled with water, she said.
Part of the museum at 201 10th St. W. is cooled with water but a different type of cooling is used in the wing housing Snooty, the museum's popular manatee, so the chiller plant's product would not work there, Besio said.
"We work with regular air-conditioning for that whole side of the building where Snooty is located," she said.
The chiller plant, along with a number of other high-efficiency mechanical systems, would be part of a $13 million project if the Manatee County Commission approves, officials said. The plant would be built on county-owned land north of Bradenton's U.S. Post Office at 824 Manatee Ave. W.The project would require about $3.5 million in county funding due to savings culled from elsewhere and lower costs enabled by the efficiency of the new systems.
The county could reap an estimated 20-year revenue stream generated by three possible new customers, calculated at more than $2.7 million.
Pumping chilled water through underground piping could cool buildings up to a mile away, officials said.
In addition to the chiller plant itself, the project calls for new elevators, air handlers and other energy-saving measures in county buildings, said Bishop.
Three county buildings are initial candidates for the chiller plant: the County Administrative Center, property appraiser's office and downtown Bradenton's Central Library, said Darryl Blair, who handles energy management for the county property management department.
Two others, Central Storage and the Merrill Lynch building, might be candidates in the future, he said.
"We're talking in millions of dollars of savings over the life of the project," Blair said.
Bradenton city officials have also signed a letter of intent.
Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. called the chiller plant "a win-win for the downtown sector as well as cost savings for government."
Such a facility would be attractive, would be "green" and save energy, and would help the city's downtown draw more businesses, Byrd said.
"We are definitely interested," said Byrd.
However, the timing will be important, he said, since the chiller plant is "not really in play at this moment."
Still, he is optimistic about its future.
"I believe all the pieces will come together on it, and it will be definitely beneficial to the taxpayers, both directly with the government being involved, and indirectly with possibly attracting other businesses to the downtown sector," Byrd said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.