Group Seeks Purchase of RELAC Cooling System

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

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.

Charlie February 07, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Although I may regret this, I don't think it can get any worse. I am in full support of a plan that gets those cooling towers built for the extra capacity during the hottest days. Hopefully they can be installed in a way that does not detract from anyone's property (i.e. eyesore).
Mark Waddell February 07, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Two cooling towers have been at the RELAC Plant since late November. This is only the first step in getting them operational.
Lucinda Shannon February 07, 2013 at 06:41 PM
This sounds like great news! I hope it works out.
Blake C. Travis February 07, 2013 at 09:50 PM
I appreciate Mark and his partners' desire to turn this thing around and I hope they know what they're getting into. I am tired of paying over $1,000 a year for a service that has no material effect on cooling my home, as I found out during the 4-day Derecho power outage. The ambient temperature in my home was pretty much the same with or without RELAC. I hope they can make it work, while lowering our outrageous fees. At this point, I'd rather pocket the $1,000 a year and endure the summer heat (since that's what I have to do anyway).
John Lovaas February 08, 2013 at 01:47 PM
-I am interested in and a little hopeful about a local group owning and operating this decrepit and failing system. Charlie has it right--it is doubtful anything could be worse than AQUA VA which has proved to be deceitful as well as incompetent and totally unresponsive. Also good that RA appears ready to actually play a positive role to help assure we are not getting another bad deal. Trouble is the system may truly be worth just about the amount AQUA offered to sell it to RA or homeowners chained to it. AQUA offered it to us for the sum of $1.00 U.S. What is needed is very deep pockets and exceptional technical and management competence to invest in redoing, modernizing 45 year old infrastructure & equipment and make it operate ! It is by no means clear that these three gentlemen have anywhere near the wherewithal to make RELAC a viable worthwhile enterprise. Let's hope that they do, but let's examine this proposal very closely. Fingers crossed.


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