Calpine’s Geothermal Facilities Devastated in California Blaze

Parts of Calpine Corp.’s The Geysers geothermal power complex have been severely damaged by a wildfire that has incinerated swathes of California. 

One of the world’s largest geothermal facilities, the 725-MW Geysers complex sits on 45 square miles of land along the border of Sonoma and Lake Counties in Northern California. Calpine said at least five of the 14 power plants it owns and operates—207 MW in total—have been affected by the ferocious Valley Fire.

“Severe damage” has been confirmed to ancillary structures, including cooling towers, communication equipment, and local power distribution lines. Calpine said it does not know if the main powerhouses (including steam turbine and generator sets) at those sites have sustained any damage. The fire also damaged some third-party transmission lines.

The company has evacuated all employees and contractors from those plants and said it is coordinating closely with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) in the event further evacuation is needed from other plants. About 300 workers and 150 contractors work at the complex in total.

“Calpine’s insurance includes coverage for wildfire risks at The Geysers. Based on preliminary information, we expect such insurance will cover costs to repair or replace our damaged facilities as well as our net revenue losses, after applicable deductibles,” the company said. “We expect our delivery obligations under power sales agreements to be excused without further obligation by reason of force majeure until repairs are completed.”

The Valley Fire has razed more than 67,000 acres since Saturday. Firefighters have contained 15% of the fire, CAL FIRE reported on Sept. 15 at 7:30 a.m.

The fire has burned down much of the area surrounding The Geysers. “As a longtime member and supporter of these communities, we are heartbroken over the losses sustained by our employees, friends and neighbors and our thoughts and prayers are with them. For our affected employees, we are developing assistance programs to support our Geysers family through these difficult times,” the company said, expressing “heartfelt thanks” to the first responders who are working to contain the fire.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)