Geothermal Conserves Water in California

While geoexchange heating and cooling systems are proven to be a reliable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient technology, they also offer a key benefit over cooling-tower based chilled- water heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that are used in typical commercial and institutional applications, said the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium (GHPC).

Washington, D.C. – July 23, 2003 [] In an effort to bring the success of geoexchange to southern California, GHPC has launched a program to increase the awareness and use of geoexchange technology. The primary focus is 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 Californian’s reduce energy use cost-effectively, promote environmental soundness and conserve our precious water supplies,” said Wael El-Sharif, executive director of GHPC. GHPC is conducting a series of educational seminars on geoexchange technology for school officials and business owners who are involved in heating and cooling decisions. GHPC is also conducting training workshops for engineers, architects, contractors and drillers who are involved in the design and installation of geoexchange systems. In addition to the educational seminars, the GHPC program will install geoexchange systems at two schools. The specific schools are currently being selected. The schools chosen will receive funding for the project, which will help offset any incremental cost to the schools. GHPC is partnering with the Davis, California-based Association for Efficient Environmental Energy Systems. The program is slated to run through December 2003. Since geoexchange systems don’t consume water, said GHPC, this additional benefit can prove even more vital to states that experience drought conditions each year. For some time California has been exceeding its annual allotment, 1.434 trillion gallons, from the Colorado River by 30 percent, an additional 423 billion gallons. In December 2002, the federal government restricted California’s use of the Colorado River, which is at its lowest level in nearly a century. Northern California has its own share of problems as well, said GHPC. Water from the San Francisco Bay Delta, served by the Sacramento River, is decreasing in abundance due to increased pollution levels, efforts to preserve local wildlife and periodic droughts. Taken together, new water sources and/or approaches to conserve water need to be identified to assure a sound water future for California, said the organization. But finding new sources of water and delivering it is difficult. Water conservation is the answer and Geoexchange Technology is the key to it, said the GHPC. Commercial and institutional buildings that utilize cooling towers use a significant amount of water for their day-to-day operation. According to data supplied by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, cooling tower systems account for 20-30 percent of a facility’s total water consumption. “A typical cooling tower of 300 tons in size with an operating cycle of 10 hours will consume 2.25 gallons of water per ton per hour for a total of 6,750 gallons per day,” El-Sharif said. “In just seven weeks, the cooling tower uses approximately 326,000 gallons, the amount that can serve a five-person household for one year.” One solution is using geoexchange heating and cooling system that consume no water and can be sized to meet a diverse set of commercial and institutional applications. 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. 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 reach 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, 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 25-40 percent, said the organization. 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, said GHPC.
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