Water: A Powerful Resource
Our planet offers natural resources that can be replaced and others that cannot. Though it takes many hundreds of years, a new redwood tree can grow in the place of a fallen ancestor. Thus trees are generally considered to be renewable resources. But the Earth has only a finite supply of fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Once those resources are harvested, they cannot be replenished.
This is a great concern because of the heavy reliance on fossil fuels for our energy needs. That is why many responsible energy companies are actively seeking opportunities to harness alternative, renewable, energy resources. The Geysers geothermal operation is one of those opportunities.
The Geysers steamfields are a rare geothermal occurrence in which natural steam is produced when underground water comes into contact with rocks that have been heated by underlying magma (or molten rock). Because the magma in The Geysers area is relatively close to the Earth’s surface, the steam escapes from the ground in the form of hot springs or fumaroles. When the steam reaches the surface in production wells that have been drilled by energy companies, it travels through insulated pipelines to a generator unit where it spins turbines to create electricity.
Only 20 percent of the expended steam can be cost-effectively condensed and put back into the ground. Therefore, the resource is slowly being depleted. Water from Santa Rosa’s Geysers Recharge Project not only replaces some of this steam, but enables the hot rocks to produce even more steam. Once the recycled water is released from the project’s terminal tank, gravity carries it through another pipeline to the steamfields where it is injected into the ground, thus extending the life of the steamfields and allowing the generation of electricity to remain at its current level for the foreseeable future.
The Geysers and other geothermal sources lessen demand on fossil fuel supplies. Each 100 megawatts of capacity at The Geysers eliminates the need to burn approximately one million barrels of oil per year1. The 12.62 million gallons per day of recycled water sent to the steamfields through the Geysers Recharge Project boosts the operation’s electrical output by 100 megawatts – enough to meet the energy needs of up to 100,000 households.
Learn More about the Cycle of Wastewater to Electricity.
The Geysers aren’t really geysers at all. Find out why.
1Information provided by Calpine, The Geysers brochure, 2009