Lake Anne cooling service to launch ahead of expected heat wave

Residences along the Chimney House Road side of Lake Anne in Reston (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

RELAC Water Cooling will begin delivering air-conditioning services to residents and businesses in Reston’s Lake Anne area this weekend — ahead of its official launch date of May 22.

The volunteer-run utility announced today that it will “go live” tomorrow (Saturday) to test its services, providing chilled water from the artificial lake to cool 635 residential and commercial properties.

“Being ready for the start date, which is prescribed by state regulations, is mission-critical,” RELAC Steering Committee Chair Simon McKeown said in the announcement. “We want to avoid any adverse impact on our community’s health and comfort when the temps go high. That’s why it’s imperative we implement a rigorous testing period.”

RELAC will have full services available during the testing period, which will begin before a surge in temperatures next week. The National Weather Service’s current forecast for Reston shows highs in the 80s, starting this Sunday (April 28) through at least Thursday (May 2).

While some maintenance and refurbishment work remains in progress, engineering contractor, Innovative Mechanical Systems (IMS), confirmed last night that RELAC can start its chilling operations, according to McKeown.

Since it was created in the mid-1960s, the Reston Lake Anne Air Conditioning Corporation has been required for certain homeowners by the Reston deed, which prohibits individual air-conditioning units for residential clusters where the central AC service is available.

However, the State Corporation Commission-regulated utility announced last December that it would cease operations, citing increased operating and maintenance costs as well as difficulties with getting customers to pay their bills.

In response, McKeown and other residents moved to take over the company with plans to turn it into a community-run co-op. The new RELAC officially registered with the SCC as a nonprofit on Feb. 5.

That reorganization unfolded concurrently with a Reston Association referendum that sought to repeal the RELAC requirement. Like previous efforts, the campaign fell short of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass.

RELAC’s new leaders announced earlier this month that they had received enough community donations to restart operations for the upcoming cooling season.

“This has involved a team of extremely dedicated people: the members of the Initiative Steering Committee and the subsequent members of the Advisory Board and the generous support of many of our neighbors that have financially played a critical role and provided thoughtful input and been so supportive,” McKeown said in this morning’s notice. “In short, this IS a community initiative.”

Properties where RELAC’s services will be available include the Coleson, Governours, Hickory, Wainright, Waterview, Washington Plaza and Chimney House Road clusters as well as the Vantage Hill Condominiums, the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association (LARCA) and Lake Anne businesses, such as Reston’s Used Book Shop and the Washington Plaza Baptist Church.