In an earlier post, we discussed The Geysers geothermal operation in the Sonoma and Lake Counties. This steam field and its power plants are part of the Calpine Corporation*, the Nation’s largest renewable geothermal producer. As part of it’s outreach role, Calpine established the Calpine Geothermal Visitors Center, to educate the public on geothermal energy production and what makes The Geysers location unique. While not a popular tourist destination, the center offers edifying interactive displays to help explain geothermal energy collection. The exhibits were updated in 2012, allowing for a polished and engaging experience for visitors interested in sustainable energy, drilling techniques, geothermal systems, and the wastewater-to-electricity projects in Santa Rosa and Lake County.
Calpine presents an engaging timeline of the Geysers: covering its role in Native American life, its conversion to a popular resort, and as a source of renewable energy.
A large display demonstrates how the “ring of fire” around the pacific has many geothermic sites where the heat from the earth’s core heats water in the crust that can power geothermal energy plants.
A voice over with LED lights explains the flow of steam from the earths crust to run through a turbine to create generate energy and how water is injected back into the ground.
This map demonstrates areas with potential to power future geothermal power plants and increase our access to clean, renewable energy.
Interactive display explaining how turbines convert steam into electric power.
On the sign: Drill deep enough and the Earth is hot everywhere, but converting the heat to power is a challenge. Sites such as The Geysers where the heat is close to the surface and deep rock layers are fractured to allow water to percolate through are quite rare.
“These are actual drill bits from Calpine’s operations at the Geysers. The bits grind through 10,000 feet of rock and soil and are in turn ground down themselves. Calpine uses larger bits near the surface and progressively smaller ones as the well gets deeper.”
“Sustainable power generation at The Geysers is possible today because of two large scale wastewater injection projects from Lake County and the City of Santa Rosa. Together, these projects provide approximately 20 million gallons of reclaimed waste per day for injection into The Geysers reservoir. The vast amount of heat in reservoir rocks efficiently converts the water into steam and supplements the production of original reservoir steam to Geysers power plants.”
Interactive digital overlay for visitors to see where The Geysers project is located and the environment it exists in.
“You are looking at a turbine at the heart of a geothermal power plant. Manufactured by Toshiba Corp., this turbine is double flow–meaning that the steam enters at the center and flows outward towards both ends–and multistage, meaning that the steam passes through multiple sets of rotor blades. “This turbine weighs 65,000 pounds (32.5 tons) and rotates at 3,600 rpm, spinning an electrical generator to produce 65 megawatts of electricity. Thats enough electricity to power 65,000 homes and businesses.”
“This is one of two original reciprocating steam-engine generators from the first geothermal power plant in the United States, which was housed in the small shack pictured above. John C. Grant constructed the plant at The Geysers in 1923 near steam wells No. 1 and 2. The 35-kilowatt power plant used geothermal steam directly to power the two generators, which were manufactured by General Electric. “Grant signed a contract to sell electricity from The Geysers to the nearby City of Healdsburg. Unfortunately, an oil glut hitting the West Coast of the U.S. made electricity generated from oil more economical, and the contract was cancelled in 1934. One of both of the original generators were the nmoved to a shed near The Geysers Resort. Here, they continued to generate electricity for the hotel, cottages, bathhouse and grounds until 1959 when the Resort connected to the PG&E system. Geothermal steam was also used at the Geysers Resort for heating.”
* Calpine shares its street address in Middletown, CA in the BLM records with: