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State’s central plant prepares for May startup

The state’s new central plant, a ‘green’ energy hub that will provide heating and air conditioning to nearly two-dozen state-owned buildings in Sacramento’s downtown core, including the state Capitol, is on track for completion in May 2009.

The steelwork on the plant was finished on schedule, the Department of General Services said. Since November, more than 300 construction workers have been working on the $181 million project

The facility, which will heat and cool some 5.5 million square feet of office space serving 20,000 state employees, adheres to a 2004 executive order by Gov. Schwarzenegger requiring the “greening” of state construction, which means newly built and renovated state-owned buildings must meet stringent environmental benchmarks.

The central plant is being built to meet what is known as a  “Gold Certification” in Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Design, or LEED, U.S. Green Building Council.

“It is very exciting that this new facility is being built to the Gold standard and our state will save energy and reduce resource use while protecting the environment,” the governor noted at the time.

The existing plant was built in 1968 and is the largest such plant west of the Mississippi River.  Over the past 40 years, the current facility has nearly reached its operating capacity as construction of new state buildings in the Capitol area has increased nearly 24 percent.  Last summer, a chiller went down, causing DGS to bring in portable air conditioning units to maintain temperatures in state buildings.

The DGS said the new central plant will reduce the state’s energy costs and cut the amount of water needed within the plant. It will have cooling towers to release heat pulled from state buildings and will also feature a 140-foot-tall, 4.25 million gallon, thermal energy storage tank to store reserves of necessary chilled water for the plant operations during off-peak energy demand times.

The more technologically advanced new central plant will use only 1/10th of the water needed by the existing plant.  Solar panels will also be installed on the new facility to power the energy needs of the office space within it.

 The new central plant is being designed and constructed by Skanska USA Building, Inc., with local Sacramento firm Nacht and Lewis Architects, San Francisco’s Flack and Kurtz, plus Lawson Mechanical and Redwood City Electric and a number of other designers and subcontractors. The major consultants include  Capitol Engineering Consultants, Inc., Lionakis Beaumont Design Group, and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.  The project recycled much of the demolition material from the old central plant, which will be torn down following construction of the new facility.

The project is located on Q Street, between 6th and 7th Streets.

“Each day State workers across downtown Sacramento expect one simple thing – to stay cool when it is hot and warm when it is cold, and the new Central Plant will allow DGS to continue to make this happen each day,” DGS Director Will Bush said earlier when construction began.

“What is even more important is that the new Plant will allow us to do this while saving energy, conserving water, and protecting the environment,” he added.

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