Kudos to Manatee County government for an innovative, forward-thinking project. By building a chiller plant in downtown Bradenton, the county expects to save $10 million in utility costs over the facility's first 20 years. Plus, the county will cut its carbon footprint by using cool water for air conditioning.
While county buildings will be connected to the chiller plant first, private businesses and the city of Bradenton buildings within a mile radius of the facility could join the network and thereby generate revenue for Manatee, another bonus.
Work on laying a web of piping that connects the plant to buildings took a pause over the holidays, but downtown streets will once again be carved up beginning Monday. Expect some street closures.
The project, with an estimated completion date sometime next fall, is part of the county's partnership with Florida Power & Light's energy savings program.
An extra bonus is the likelihood that a vacant county building on Manatee Avenue West, which holds an air-chilled unit on its roof that serves the appraiser's office, will be sold. That will also add to county coffers.
Another money-saving idea surfaced just before Christmas. County officials are reconsidering a plan to build a $3 million adjunct facility for the tax collector's office. Instead, a solar-powered building nearby is on the market for less, at $2.65 million. The property generates its own electricity via photovoltaic cells on the roof.
Not only is the cost cheaper than building, the county would save on utility expenses. In addition, that building is almost three times the size of the one on the drawing board. This almost looks like a deal too good to be true -- with more forward-thinking involved.