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Veolia Buys Comfort Link, Enters Ice Thermal Storage Biz

veolia210Veolia Energy North America, a subsidiary of France’s Veolia Environment, has purchased Comfort Link‘s district cooling system business. Comfort Link serves Baltimore and was previously a partnership between Baltimore Gas and Electric and EMCOR.

Comfort Link’s ice thermal storage system serves 50 customers (such as  City Hall, the Baltimore Convention Center, The Rouse Company’s Harborplace, the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse, Fallon Federal Building and the U.S. Customs House) representing more than 11.5 million square feet.

The acquisition, the details of which are under wraps, will add 16 new buildings to Veolia Energy’s existing district energy (heating, cooling and cogeneration) operations in Baltimore. Prior to the acquisition, Veolia provided centrally produced steam, hot water and chilled water to approximately 250 commercial, government, institutional and hospitality customers, and nearly 30 million square feet of space.

The Comfort Link system, which consists of four networked chilled-water production facilities, delivers more than 32,000 tons of cooling capacity and approximately 40 million ton-hours of chilled water via 11-miles of pipes.

Ice cooling systems have been gaining traction lately with news from Ice Energy and Calmac. The Southern California Public Power Authority, which represents 11 municipal utilities, plans to install ice cooling devices to cut the amount of electricity used by air conditioners during peak demand. The systems from Ice Energy, which connect to a building’s air conditioning units, use off-peak energy overnight to freeze 450 gallons of water in an insulated tank that is then used to cool buildings during the day.

Calmac recently released details on the energy savings in ice (PDF). The company says it saved Sarasota County Schools over $8 million in energy savings plus over $4 million in utility incentives in 18 years by shifting the electric demand from on-peak to off-peak with its IceBank energy storage in thirty-one of the fifty Sarasota County schools.

To date, almost 12 megawatts of energy or 11,000 tons of cooling and 25 percent of on- peak electric demand has been shifted to off-peak hours by the Sarasota schools. For every 500 tons that is shifted, the school saves approximately 408,960 lbs of C02 per year, meaning the schools save nearly 8,997,120 lbs of C02 per year (11,000 tons x 408,960 lbs of C02 per yr / 500 tons).

In 2008, the school district saved $729,000 alone with their energy storage systems. That breaks down to 16.5 cents per square foot saved in the buildings with thermal energy storage.

Veolia anticipates future growth for Comfort Link as more buildings in the vicinity leverage the network as a cost-effective and environmentally-responsible alternative to operating and maintaining their own thermal energy equipment.

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