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AMP pulls out of Geysers project

Submitted by on 1, September 3, 2009 – 5:50 am3 Comments

Alameda Municipal Power is pulling out of the Geysers geothermal energy project to avoid a planned price increase for the power the project would produce.

Western GeoPower increased the price from $98 per kilowatt hour to $117 in order to come up with more funds to help pay for the project. But the folks at AMP, who were slated to get just shy of 6 percent of the power from the project, are saying that’s up to 20 percent more than the power should cost, and the city’s Public Utilities Board agreed. Power from another small hydroelectric project is expected to come in at under $90 per kilowatt hour, the staff report says.

The total cost for the power at the new cost, which would serve 2 to 3 percent of the city’s need, would be $1.4 million a year.

The project, which is in the Geysers Geothermal Field in the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma and Lake counties, was slated to start construction in February and be up and running by April 2010, according to a city staff report. But it stalled out when the company ran out of money to build the project and couldn’t secure additional financing.

AMP would have had a 20-year contract for power from the facility. The cities of Lodi and Roseville, BART and the Truckee-Donner Public Utilities District are also pulling out of the contract for Geysers power.

The utility doesn’t expect it will need the additional power for another five to six years.

Separately, Western GeoPower’s president and chief executive officer resigned his job Tuesday, in advance of the Vancouver renewable energy company’s merger with two other geothermal companies.


  • alameda says:

    There are some concerns being raised about the drilling deep into the earth and the earthquakes that it could cause, as a consequence.


    They have since suspended the project!


  • david burton says:

    One small clarfication of alameda's comment might be in order.

    This project was a new, experimental way of generating geothermal energy that involves injecting water into hot rock formations deep in the earth. The idea is that this will fracture the rocks and thus be able to generate more energy. The worry is that the fracturing can generate earthquakes, as was apparently the case in a similar project in Switzerland.

    More traditional geothermal projects rely on the naturally heated water present in the earth for power generation and don't involve the fracturing process.

    Alameda gets a significant proportion of its power from geothermal projects so I think it's good to be clear that we don't need to worry about the more traditional projects we rely on.

  • DK says:

    David Burton – You should also be aware that the residents in the environs where AMP's traditional geothermal power source is located also complain of the increased amounts of seismic activity which is a concern for them.

    Also the facility which AMP gets that same power from pumps millions of gallons of water each day down into those heated rock beds, yet the thermal pressures are still dwindling despite the added water.

    For nearly a decade there have been whispers that the extensive use so many steam wells on those hills has put us past "peak steam". Also it is well know that because of the decades of steam harvesting, those hills are losing elevation (collapsing). I believe the quote was around 24" per year drop in elevation.

    This form of “green” may not be sustainable. It is important to look at more traditional remedies, such as reducing energy needs, not over developing past what we can healthfully supply, or using construction methods made popular in the 70’s, which developer’s of today are ignoring. For references see info on Ca’s solar villages or for more sustainability Google ‘earthships’.

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