Wildfire affects Calpine geothermal power units

Calpine (NYSE:CPN) reported Sept. 14 that the wildfire known as the Valley Fire has affected five of Calpine’s 14 Geysers geothermal power facilities in Lake and Sonoma Counties, California.

Much of the infrastructure damage occurred at power lines serving the power plants, Calpine said. All employees and contractors were safely evacuated and accounted for, the company said.

The Geysers is the largest geothermal complex in the world comprising approximately 45 square miles along the border of the two counties. Calpine owns and operates 14 power plants at the Geysers with a net operating capacity of approximately 725 MW.

“We understand from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) that the fire is moving away from other power plants at The Geysers but is only minimally contained and could change direction,” Calpine said in a statement.

“We continue to generate and deliver renewable electricity to the grid for our customers from our non-affected plants at The Geysers to the extent possible. We are coordinating closely with Cal Fire in the event further evacuation is needed from our operating plants, as employee safety is our top priority,” Calpine went on to say.

“As to our affected facilities, ancillary structures (specifically, cooling towers, communication equipment and local power distribution lines) have been severely damaged,” Calpine said.

“There is no known damage to any of the main power houses (including steam turbine and generator sets) at those sites,” Calpine said.

“The fire also damaged some third-party transmission lines that transmit our power to the grid. 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. 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 fire inflicted substantial damage to the communities 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,” Calpine said. “For our affected employees, we are developing assistance programs to support our Geysers family through these difficult times.”

“We also are working with local officials and community leaders to determine how best to provide assistance and support to the communities impacted by this fire to help them get back on their feet, with initial donations totaling $100,000 to local charities, including the American Red Cross, for community relief efforts. Finally, we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the first responders who are working hard to contain the fire,” Calpine said.

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Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.