Calpine plans $700 million Geysers expansion

[caption id="attachment_41811" align="alignright" width="400" caption="The Geysers is the single largest geothermal operation in the world, producing up to 725 megawatts of green energy around the clock -- enough electricity to power the entire city of San Francisco."][/caption]SONOMA COUNTY -- Calpine Corporation, the nation’s largest renewable geothermal power producer, plans to build two new power plants adjacent to its existing Geysers steam field in Sonoma and Lake Counties designed to generate a total of 98 megawatts of additional clean energy, pending regulatory approvals.The first phase of the approval process is set for Oct. 20, when the Sonoma County Planning Commission is set to vote on two land use permits for the plants. Other major permits include an air permit as well as building and grading permits.If the land use permits are approved and no appeals are filed within a 30-day appeal period, the approval will be final. If appealed, the permits will then go before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The Sonoma County Permitting Resource Management Department has determined that Calpine’s proposed projects  present no significant effect on the environment, meaning that the permitting path would not include an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) but rather a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), which is also a permitting process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).Construction could begin in 2012 for the first proposed plant, if all goes as planned. This facility could be operational as early as 2014.  Construction of the second plant would begin two or more years later.The site for these new facilities is a 6,200-acre parcel north of the current 15 power plants located 100 miles north of San Francisco in the Mayacamas.  Calpine acquired the steam field leases in 2004 from the Wild Horse Ranch, where the proposed drilling sites are located.The Geothermal Operator Corporation (GOC) and the Central California Power Association (CCPA) previously developed this site. These firms built their first plant in 1989 with a capacity of 135 megawatts. Due to a sharp decline in natural steam conditions, the plant was decommissioned and steam wells were plugged and abandoned in 1990.Over the past 10 years, Calpine has been injecting up to 20 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day from Santa Rosa and Lake County into the underground steam reservoir to produce additional steam and manage the entire field as a whole. This injection process is what makes it possible to revisit abandoned well sites and bring them back online.At Wild Horse Ranch, Calpine has invested approximately $80 million to date on drilling and pipelines for 16 wells -- 14 of which involve the reopening of existing wells while others are new, grassroots wells.Six wells are steam producers that have been connected to Calpine’s existing plants, and five are injectors that will be connected to the company’s injection pipeline system.  Since heat is lost over the distance it must travel to the power plant, the two proposed plants are located close to steam sources to achieve maximum output.The Geysers is the single largest geothermal operation in the world, producing up to 725 megawatts of green energy around the clock -- enough electricity to power the entire city of San Francisco.Today this 45-square mile steam field, with its 330 steam wells and 75 injection wells, represents 41 percent of overall geothermal generation in the U.S.The new project represents an investment by Calpine of approximately $700 million and will employ an estimated 191 local, union construction jobs and 900,000 hours of labor over a 30-month buildout period.“We originally planned to take advantage of an Investment Tax Credit offered by the federal government that would have covered approximately 30 percent of the cost,” said Gevan Reeves, Strategic Origination Director with Calpine.  “However, this incentive program required each plant to be online prior to December 31, 2013. In February 2011, it became apparent that the permitting process would take longer than anticipated and that the chance of meeting the 2013 production deadline was just too risky. Consequently, funding has been obtained from other sources.”The new plants will generate some $12 million in one-time sales tax revenue and $7 million in new annual property taxes. Calpine expects to spend $15 million a year on maintenance and operations and $2.4 million for an annual payroll.The expanded site will result in $1 million in federal royalties, of which 45 percent will return to the county and 30 percent to the state.  Some $1.5 million in state royalties will go into the California State Teacher’s Retirement Fund.  An additional $1.5 million will be paid as private royalties.The company says this construction will benefit the region’s economy by creating opportunities for local residents and businesses through the purchase of millions of dollars of materials, supplies and services over a two-and-a-half year period.  Long term, the project will create 19 new, full-time, living wage jobs.  Calpine has some 345 employees today.“Calpine is committed to environmental stewardship and at The Geysers, we constantly work on ways to expand steam-to-electricity technologies to extend this unique natural resource,” Mr. Reeves said."Calpine is proud of its investments in turbine rebuilds, equipment upgrades and repowering of units to maximize current operations.  A power plant has not been built at The Geysers since 1989, and we are particularly hopeful for the opportunity to build state-of-the-art geothermal power plants at The Geysers in the near future.”These new plants will use 100 percent reclaimed water from Sonoma County that will be injected into subterranean geothermal wells to augment steam production to power turbines generating electricity.Some 11 million gallons of municipal wastewater is currently piped into the Geysers from Santa Rosa each day rather than being discharged into the Russian River.Company officials said that Calpine’s Geyser facilities reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the Western Electric Grid by 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The two new plants are estimated to provide a further GHG reduction of 139,000 to 199,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.  The company is also expanding its Russell City Energy Center in Hayward, California.  This 619-megawatt, natural gas-fired power plant will also use reclaimed water from the City of Hayward’s wastewater treatment plant for cooling.In addition, Calpine has another expansion project under way at its Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility near San Jose to increase current capacity from 180 megawatts to 300 megawatts. The company says this plant will not only conserve water, it will also prevent four million gallons of wastewater from being released into San Francisco Bay daily.According to Mr. Reeves, “California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has set a state policy that requires electricity providers to obtain a minimum of 33 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020. As a national leader in geothermal generation and the primary geothermal operator at The Geysers, our power plants are currently producing approximately 20 percent of the state’s overall renewable energy generation. Calpine continues to look for ways to help California meet these goals.”Calpine Corporation, founded in 1984, produces approximately 28,000 megawatts of clean, cost-effective, reliable and fuel-efficient power at its 92 operational sites in North America. The company owns, leases and operates low carbon, natural gas-fired and renewable geothermal power plants in 20 U.S. states and Canada.Calpine pipes in 11.5 billion gallons of reclaimed water to its plants each year in California, Florida, Minnesota and Texas.  To date, the company has invested more than $100 million in programs to protect and preserve water resources for future use.  For more information, go to

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