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 1986 the GGA implemented a generous scholarship program which continues today.
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
Geothermal Association Website (Updated
August 16 , 2014)
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