The Chilled Water Services’ team includes, back row from left: Andrew Planeta, Operator II; Matt Kniskern, Technician; Jordan Hall, Supervisor; Matt Resetar, Lead Operator; Dauhn Johnson, Lead Operator; Clyde Peters, Operator I; and Aaron Fagen, Manager; front row from left: Mukesh Joshi, Sr. Engineer; Carlie Brito, Business Support Specialist; Bob Fellingham, Operator I; Erick Rocher-Perez, Director; Darrin Roy, Operator II; and Jorge Vargas, Maintenance Facilitator. (Wayne Beers, Lead Technician, and Gerrard Fatu, Operator II, were unavailable.)

It was 25 years ago this May that OUC launched a service that would go on to provide a more economical air conditioning solution for some of the largest commercial buildings in Orlando. Perhaps coincidentally, OUCooling, the moniker for OUC’s Chilled Water Services, reaches the quarter century milestone at a time when it’s poised to add two soon-to-open major destinations ─ Orlando International Airport’s South Terminal C and Universal’s Epic Universe theme park ─ as customers.

In 1997, OUCooling began operating a 6,600-ton Chilled Water plant OUC designed and built to cool 11 buildings on Lockheed Martin’s campus in south Orlando. That project established the International Drive District, a service territory that grew with the acquisition of the Orange County Convention Center’s chilled water units and the addition of two resort hotels as subscribers.

The following year ushered in the Downtown District, giving OUCooling a beachhead in the heart of the City Beautiful. Currently comprised of three chilled water plants connected to an underground loop of piping, the district now serves 33 buildings, including City Hall, Amway Center, OUC’s Reliable Plaza, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and CNL Tower II.

Highly automated chilled water plants send water cooled at 39 degrees F through underground piping to OUCooling customers’ buildings. There the chilled water runs through fan coils and air handling units, cooling warmer air that’s circulated over the coils while heading to air conditioning vents. The process is repeated time and again as water travels through cooling coils and returns to the chilled water plant. Chilled water systems are approximately 25 percent more energy efficient than traditional air conditioning systems used in large buildings. Typically, an OUCooling service contract runs 20 years.

“If aesthetics, energy conservation and sustainability are principal aspects of a building’s design, chilled water is likely to be the preferred solution,” says Erick Rocher-Perez, Director of Chilled Water Services. “By opting to connect to OUC’s chilled water service, the building owner is spared the substantial upfront capital outlay for the cost of installing air conditioning equipment and doesn’t have to commit rentable space to house its own AC system.”

In 2003, OUC commissioned a 17 million-gallon thermal storage tank at the International Drive District.  Thermal storage works like a battery for a building’s air-conditioning system by charging the tank with chilled water at 39 degrees F during off-peak hours to take advantage of lower electric rates. During peak hours, the system goes into discharge mode to dispatch service from the tank while keeping the chilled water plants running at minimum loads.

This summer will bring to fruition the creation of two more districts, raising the total to seven when the construction of the chilled water units at OIA’s new terminal and Epic Universe are expected to be completed. Under an agreement with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, OUC will acquire South Terminal C’s new 10,395-ton chilled water facility and a 28 megawatt backup generation facility, both of which OUC will maintain and operate 24/7. OUC designed and is building Epic’s 20,000-ton plant, which will be the largest of 11 plants maintained by OUCooling’s team.

The other water districts are Sheraton Vistana Resort at Lake Buena Vista, The Mall at Millenia and Lake Nona’s Medical City.

Asked what the next 25 years for OUCooling look like, Rocher-Perez doesn’t hesitate to reply.

“As Orlando continues to grow, so, too, will OUCooling. No doubt about it,” he says.