It can take something special to wake middle school students up early...it seems that a visit to The Geysers, the largest complex of geothermal plants in the world, fits the bill!

 

The middle school class at The Renaissance International School met at 6:30am on a Friday earlier this month so that we could make it to the 9am tour of The Geysers, where steam field reservoirs under the earth’s surface are being harnessed by Calpine. It was well worth it! The tour, led by one of Calpine’s mechanical engineers, was absolutely fascinating!

 

CalpineTour

 

It started off at the Calpine Visitor Center, which had an informative display on geothermal energy. None of us had realized that water is actually injected deep into the ground to create more steam and “fill” the steam reservoirs that are used to generate electricity.  We then got in a bus that took us into The Geysers. We were able to see injection wells, where water is injected into the earth, and production wells, where steam flows out of the earth, through a system of pipes, to a power plant. The steam is then cleaned (it was amazing to see the bin of sulfur that has been precipitated from the steam!) and used to turn a turbine, thus generating electricity. Students had the opportunity to tour one of the power plants and talk to the plant operator. It was amazing to learn that the plant can be run by one person!

 

After the tour, students discussed the pros and cons of this type of energy. It produces very little in the way of hazardous waste, and generates no carbon emissions, making it a very clean form of energy. However, the idea that water is necessary to produce this electricity caused some concern among our students, due to their sensitivity to California’s drought. Geothermal presents another advantage over solar and wind energy, however it can be produced constantly, 24 hours a day, with relatively little dependence on the weather.