With a population rapidly approaching thirty-five million and a trillion dollar-plus economy exhibiting sustained growth, California is continually working to maintain its status as an international force unto itself. Sustaining this growth, though, is not an easy task. The growth comes with a price when each accomplishment represents an even greater demand for energy, a resource the state has fought to conserve for years.Columbia, Maryland – February 3, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The Golden State also prides itself on environmental progress, persistently seeking out ways to help protect the land its citizens love. The growth of the state’s economy has not come without a cost to the environment, either. These concerns, when coupled with the state’s struggle to avoid energy shortages, present thorny issues that need to be addressed by the state’s leaders. On January 22, 2004, California energy regulators adopted guidelines for the state’s utilities to draft long-term plans to ensure they have enough power to deliver to customers at “low and stable prices.” The proposed framework comes as a response to the California energy crisis, which led to elevated energy prices, blackouts and economic damage to the state. Although former Gov. Gray Davis rescinded the energy-related state of emergency shortly before leaving office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger insists that the crisis is not yet over. He has warned that California could still face a new energy shortage as soon as 2006. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than two-thirds of the nation’s electrical energy and more than 40 percent of natural gas consumption are used in buildings. Heating, cooling and water heating account for 58 percent of the energy used in residential and commercial buildings. To augment governmental initiatives to conserve energy, conserve non-renewable resources and protect the environment, Californians can choose to install geoexchange technology in their schools and commercial buildings as a viable alternative to heating and cooling the air with non-renewable energy sources. Not only does geoexchange save money for the customer and precious natural resources, but also helps the state to offset the high peak demands for energy. Geoexchange (sometimes called geothermal, or ground-source heating and cooling) taps the renewable, safe, and virtually endless energy supply that lies just below the earth’s surface. The way it works is simple. In winter, warmth is drawn from the earth through a series of pipes, called a loop, installed beneath the ground. A water solution circulating through this piping loop carries the earth’s natural warmth to a heat pump inside a building. The heat pump concentrates the earth’s thermal energy and transfers it to air circulated through interior ductwork to fill every space in your school or office building. In the summer, the process is reversed. Heat is extracted from air inside the building and transferred to the biggest “heat sink” of all – the Earth – by way of the ground loop piping. Because geoexchange technology uses such a readily available source of energy — and uses it so efficiently — it can cut heating and cooling costs by 25%-40%, according to the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (GHPC). GHPC said the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy have both recognized geoexchange technology as the most efficient and environmentally friendly home heating and cooling system available. California Geoexchange Program In an effort to bring the success of geoexchange to southern California, the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (GHPC) has launched a program to increase the awareness and use of geoexchange technology. The primary focus are schools and commercial buildings within Southern California Edison’s service territory, which includes 4.2 million customers over a 50,000 square mile area in coastal, central and southern California. “This program will go a long way towards helping Californians reduce their energy use cost-effectively, promote environmental stewardship and conserve our precious water supplies,” said Wael El-Sharif, executive director for GHPC. GHPC has conducted educational seminars on geoexchange technology for school officials and business owners who are involved in heating and cooling decisions. GHPC has also administered training workshops for engineers, architects, contractors and drillers who are involved in the design and installation of geoexchange systems. GHPC is partnering with the Davis, California-based Association for Efficient Environmental Energy Systems. The program is slated to run through March 2004.