California officials announced that the steelwork is complete on the state's new green central plant. State and Consumer Services Agency (SCSA) Secretary Rosario Marin and Department of General Services (DGS) Director Will Bush were on hand at a "topping out" ceremony where the last piece of steel was put into place.

Since November, more than 300 construction workers have been working to build a more environmentally friendly plant to heat and cool state office buildings in downtown Sacramento. In keeping with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004 Executive Order that directed the greening of state buildings, the new central plant will be built to achieve the Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Environmental Design Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"California continues to lead the nation in fighting climate change and this new central plant is leading by example to reduce our state's carbon footprint," Schwarzenegger said. "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."

Each day the existing plant provides the steam and chilled water to heat and cool more than 5.5 million square feet of office space in the state Capitol and 22 other state-owned buildings in the downtown core.

"This new plant is an exciting green investment that will help us cut our water usage and save energy," Marin said. "State workers expect reliable heating and cooling each day when they come to work and this new central plant will help us achieve that."

The construction project is on track, and the new central plant will be operational in May 2009. The existing plant was built in 1968 and is the largest such plant west of the Mississippi River. 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 the DGS to bring in portable chiller units to maintain temperatures in state buildings.

The new central plant will incorporate the latest technological advances to help the state reduce its energy costs and greatly reduce the amount of water needed within the plant. The new facility 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 central plant will use one-tenth 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.