California lowers hurdles for geothermal ground-loop technology

SACRAMENTO -- California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 27 signed into law Assembly Bill 2339, designed to identify and eliminate legal and statutory impediments affecting the adoption and use of geothermal heat pump and geothermal ground-loop technologies.

[caption id="attachment_62618" align="alignright" width="385"] Air Connection of Santa Rosa installs a geothermal ground loop and heat pump system at the Sonoma County Water Agency at 1315 Airport Blvd. north of Santa Rosa.[/caption]

That would make it easier to build systems such as the one Sonoma County Water Agency had installed next to its offices near Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport. The agency has proposed a much larger loop that would serve dozens of commercial buildings in the airport industrial areas, potentially reducing energy demands for heating and cooling dramatically.

These geo systems use the renewable energy of the earth and the sun to provide heating and air conditioning, domestic hot water as well as pool and spa heating more efficiently than other technologies without consuming fossil fuels on site, according to industry reports.

Championed by the California Geothermal Heat Pump Lobby Coalition (CalGeo) and GeoExchange Solutions, Inc., AB 2339 passed the state Senate 36-0 on Aug. 28, and by 79-0 in the Assembly the following day.

California is the third state to pass such legislation. Maryland and New Hampshire already broadened the definition of renewable energy to include geothermal heat pumps.  

While AB 2339 establishes a path for California to get there, this bill stops short of recognizing GHPs as a renewable source of energy that utilities can claim.  

The new law adds Section 25228 to the Public Resources Code, requiring the California Energy Commission (CEC) -- in consultation with the Public Utilities Commission, the Air Resources Board, as well as cities, municipalities and other stakeholders -- to recommend policies and implement strategies to overcome barriers to embracing GHP and geothermal ground loop technologies.

Industry leaders say a lack of policymaker and regulator knowledge and trust in geo system benefits has led to misunderstandings of the feasibility and cost effectiveness of such systems.

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