Friday, 14 June 2024

NCPA dedicates new solar array, celebrates 50 years of geothermal energy

The new 1 megawatt solar array at the Middletown Treatment Plant in Middletown, Calif., will provide power to pump treated wastewater to The Geysers geothermal steamfield, where two Northern California Power Agency geothermal plants operate. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


MIDDLETOWN – At the site of its newest solar array, the Northern California Power Agency celebrated its renewable energy efforts as well as The Geysers' 50 years of producing clean energy for California.

About 50 people – including NCPA representatives, and local and state officials – gathered at the site of a new 1-megawatt solar array at the Lake County Sanitation District's Middletown Treatment Plant on Highway 175.

The array's dedication – delayed from last fall due to weather – coincided with the 50th anniversary of geothermal production at The Geysers steamfield.

NCPA is a nonprofit joint powers agency, established in 1968 to generate, transmit and distribute electric power.

Its members agencies include the cities of Alameda, Biggs, Gridley, Healdsburg, Lodi, Lompoc, Palo Alto, Redding, Roseville, Santa Clara and Ukiah; the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Port of Oakland, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, and TID; and two associate members, Placer County Water Agency, and the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative serving more than 700,000 electric consumers in Central and Northern California.

In 1983, NCPA got into the geothermal business, and since then have been operating two geothermal power plants at The Geysers, each with a rated capacity of 110 megawatts.

Participants in NCPA's geothermal project include Alameda Municipal Power, the cities of Biggs, Gridley, Healdsburg, Lodi, Lompoc and Ukiah, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative, Roseville Electric, Silicon Valley Power and TID.

Larry Hansen, NCPA's chair and a Lodi City Council member, said that 10 percent of Lodi's energy portfolio comes from The Geysers, which is one of the reasons that Lodi currently exceeds the state's Renewables Portfolio Standards requirements.

Statewide, 600,000 residents receive “green energy they can depend on” from The Geysers.

The Geysers is the largest geothermal field in the world, covering 30 square miles in the northern mountains of Sonoma and Lake counties, NCPA reported.

The agency said that the steamfield currently supplies more than 5 percent of the state’s electricity needs, and generates an amount of electricity equivalent to more than 60 percent of the electrical needs of the entire northern coastal region, stretching from San Francisco to Oregon.

Hansen said NCPA has at its disposal something that is unique not just to California but the nation, a “trifecta” of green energy, including reused wastewater – pumped to The Geysers for injection in the geothermal steamfields, which is a way of extending the life of the resources – along with the solar array and The Geysers itself.

Jim Pope, NCPA's general manager, said NCPA partnered with the Lake County Sanitation District in 1997 to begin the world's first wastewater geothermal injection project.

He said 6,000 gallons a minute is pumped 26 miles to The Geysers, where it's used to create renewable energy.

“Pumping all that water up the hill takes a lot of energy,” he said, and that's where the solar array comes in.

Pope said that NCPA has pioneered a novel down-hole turbine technology in partnership with the State of California and the California Energy Commission. The turbine is essentially a small hydroelectric generator. As the wastewater is injected back into the steam field, it generates additional electricity to power the plant’s operations.

Pope noted, “We were green before it was cool.”

District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock said the public-private marriage between Lake County and NCPA is “a wonderful marriage.”

He said the geothermal industry provides tremendous jobs and economic support for Lake County.

“I can't thank you enough for your commitment to the renewable energy sources,” he said.

Comstock recognized Lake County Sanitation District Administrator Mark Dellinger for his work on the renewables projects.

“I want us to be an energy independent nation, and this is a big part of that,” Comstock said.

Dan Pellissier, deputy cabinet secretary for resources in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office, also spoke, noting that, “The Geysers is one of California's energy crown jewels.”

He said he spoke to Schwarzenegger about NCPA and its recent projects, and said the governor was “amazed and impressed” by what has been accomplished.

Pellissier said the push for renewable energy has been very effective, and many small solar installations are going in around the state.

He said that photovoltaics are dropping to the point that they will be cost effective on their own within five to 10 years.

“Eventually our push for renewable energy has to pencil out on its own, without subsidies,” he said.

Brian Bottari of Congressman Mike Thompson's office noted that renewable energy is particularly important now, as the world wrestles with climate change.

He said the need to break the nation's dependency on fossil fuels is not only a national security issue but an environmental concern, citing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Representatives of state Sen. Patricia Wiggins and Assembly member Noreen Evans' offices also presented a resolution congratulating NCPA on its efforts.

Hansen told the group in closing, “What we do matters.”

For more information, visit

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .




The Northern California Power Agency hosted a dedication ceremony for its new solar array on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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