Valley Fire Threat to AMP Power Facility

Calpine The Valley Fire has caused significant damage to Calpine cooling towers in The Geysers geothermal energy complex. Alameda Municipal Power depends on energy that this complex generates.

Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) and the Alameda Fire Department (AFD) have been impacted by the wildfires that has left a path of destruction in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties.

AMP released a statement Monday, Sept. 14, assuring its Alameda customers will not be affected by the devastating fires. AMP gets its power supply from various sources including geothermal power from The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal power production operation. The Geysers is located in Middletown in Lake County, where the wildfires began, Saturday, Sept. 12. Five power plants around the geothermal facilities have been damaged.

The affected plants sustained damage either to cooling towers, communications systems or other infrastructures, according to Brett Kerr, a spokesman for the Calpine Corporation, the agency that runs the plants. However, the powerhouses that contain the energy-producing turbines were not seriously damaged.

AMP said that even if the powerhouses were damaged its service to residents would not be affected. AMP uses a mix of power sources including wind, hydroelectric, biomass, solar and power throughout Northern California. Should the utility’s geothermal plant be threatened, these other sources of generation can meet Alameda’s needs.

"This diverse mix of generation places AMP in a far less vulnerable position when disasters like this occur," said AMP’s general manager Glenn Steiger. "This event underscores the value of diversification but also the importance of planning for our energy future."

Alameda purchases 16 megawatts of electricity from The Geysers, which accounts for about 39 percent of Alameda’s electricity annually. The power is sent to an electric grid that distributes energy to Alameda.

AFD is also playing a role by helping combat the fire. An engine company of four AFD firefighters, participating as members of a strike team, traveled to Lake County on Saturday to fight the blaze.

"This strike team consisted of five engine companies made up from agencies within our county, each staffed with four firefighters, and lead by a strike team leader," said AFD Fire Captain James Colburn. "Strike teams are pre-designated within our county mutual aid system so as to provide a prompt response."

Officials in Lake County sent out a request to the California State Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, run by the California Office of Emergency Services (OES), because the fire spread so rapidly, according to Colburn.

Typically, State OES then contacts the regional coordinators, who process the mutual aid requests. AFD was one of the departments called upon.

"Our team left Alameda Saturday at 5:30 p.m.," said Colburn. "Their strike team helped to protect structures and extinguish fires in Middletown."

Colburn said when an engine company is needed for out-of-county emergency deployment, they are assigned to that region for seven to 14 days.

"We’re assuming they’ll be there for that long," said Colburn. "Things may change depending on how long the fire continues."

The fire has damaged more than 62,000 acres of land as of Tuesday, including 1,000 homes, businesses and other structures that have been destroyed. More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from homes and one fatality has been reported.