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How and Why did the GGA Begin?

The year was 1983... Geothermal energy had come of age and the industry was enjoying a long cycle of prosperity. At a small cafe in Santa Rosa, a handful of industry leaders met for breakfast to discuss forming an association of those companies and individuals who worked at The Geysers.

According to Louis Capuano, who was to become the association's first president, "One of our first objectives was to associate all areas of the geothermal Industry and open communication on a regular basis." By joining forces the founders felt they could better address issues of safety, permitting, and other common issues specific to The Geysers.

Another important objective was to actively promote the geothermal industry to the public. Capuano added, "By working together and speaking with one large voice we were more likely to be heard than by working separately." Having stated their goals, members of this enthusiastic group went right to work, writing a mission statement, appointing a board, writing the bylaws, soliciting members, and electing officers. They even organized a GGA speaker's bureau to explain the many benefits of geothermal energy to service organizations and classrooms. By 1984 the GGA had implemented a generous scholarship program which continues today.

The 1980's 

1981 Start up of Geysers Air Monitoring Program 1 (GAMP 1)

1982 The Geysers Geothermal Association is formed and holds its first meeting.

1984 The GGA presents its first Scholarship !

1987 Total Geysers steam production peaks at almost 250 billion pounds.

The 1990's

1997 The Lake County Southeast Geysers Effluent Pipeline Project begins operations.

1998 The Santa Rosa Geysers Recharge Project is selected to transport 11 million gallons of treated recycled water per day to The Geysers through a 41 mile underground pipeline.

1999 Calpine acquires remaining Unocal leases and the PG&E power Plants.

The 2000's

2000 The Geysers celebrates 40 years in operation

2003 Santa Rosa Recharge Project starts up.

2005 - 2007 U.S. Renewable Group (USRG) takes ownership of Bottle Rock facility.

2008 NCPA first installed the first of two 1MW solar array systems.

2010 Calpine, LBNL & USGS formed a collaborative EGS project.

2013 "Santa Rosa Recharge Project" celebrated its 10th anniversary! (See article)

2003 NCPA initiates near-horizontal drilling at The Geysers with injection well N-7.

Many GGA members can still remember the first slate of officers:

President: Louis Capuano, ThermaSource

First vice president: Fred Haley, PG&E

Second vice president: Len Steglich, Dresser Industries-Magobar North American Division

Chief financial advisor: Ted Wilmsen,Thermal Power / Natomas

Secretary: Bill Woods, Aminoil, USA.

By March of 1984, GGA member chair Shelly Trentadue (now Berry) of M-I Drilling, had published the first issue of the GGA newsletter, the "Geysers Steamline". Shelly also helped organize the first (and subsequent) general membership dinner which was held September 19 at Los Robles in Santa Rosa. It was that same month that the GGA pronounced Barrett Boucher from Exlog/Smith Co. to be the 500th member!During those years an assortment of steam companies had operations at The Geysers, Union Oil Company being the largest.

Others included Northern California Power Agency, Aminoil USA, GRI Operator Corp, Republic Geothermal, Thermal Power Company, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, MCR Geothermal Geothermal Kinetics Inc., Occidental Petroleum Company McCullough Geothermal and Shell Oil Company.

As time progressed change was in the air. By 1993 a decline in the steam supply had curtailed new drilling at The Geysers, and resulted in layoffs as the industry switched from expansion mode to a maintenance position.

Good news came in the fall of 1995, when a groundbreaking ceremony at the Southeast Regional Treatment Plant near Clearlake marked the beginning of construction of the $49 million project to inject recycled water from Lake County into The Geysers Steam Field. This project proved successful and provided the example for a second project, this time with the City of Santa Rosa.

In 2001 construction began on a pipeline from the Sonoma County side which eventually began pumping water from the City of Santa Rosa to The Geysers for reinjection in December 2003.

In 1996 the deregulation of the energy market hugely impacted PG&E, forcing the utility to reduce their share of generation capacity in California. As it turned out PG&E decided to sell all their natural-gas fired steam turbine generating units and their geothermal units to meet this requirement. In 1999, as the time for PG&E's Geysers Units sale was approaching, another surprise took place when Unocal (formerly Union Oil) announced the sale of all their interests in The Geysers to Calpine Corporation. This was a key purchase by Calpine who then bought all the PG&E generating units thus making them the sole owner and operator of all the units at The Geysers except for the NCPA Units and their respective steam fields.

And that is where we are today. Through all the ups and downs in the industry, the GGA has remained a constant, providing a forum and a measure of stability. Although the membership is down from 500 members, the organization is still going strong and still committed to being the voice of The Geysers.

~ Marilyn Sanborn & Ted Wilmsen

(photos from "Geysers Steamline" Volume I, February / March 1984)

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