In the Mayacamas Mountains of Lake County, the earth talks, as steam gusts towards the skies and mud ponds burble and pop. It’s the Geysers, a natural wonder of geothermal hot springs generated from the earth’s core, and turned into a power plant that is the world’s largest geothermal electricity producer.
The phenomenal operation is celebrating its 55th year in 2015, yet surprisingly few people realize the 46-square-mile project is there. You, however, can explore the site top-to-bottom, with special guided tours hosted Saturday, July 25, and Friday, August 7. The free tours depart from Middletown (Lake County) and Santa Rosa, respectively, with the convenience of private, Pure Luxury Transportation shuttles.
It’s a fascinating discovery, as you view the steam ponds up close, and go inside the steam factories, which supply 39 percent of the United State’s geothermal generation, and 18 percent of California’s renewable electricity resources.
While the facility is about as high-tech as they come, the Geyser’s history is as old as the earth. Early Native Americans celebrated the thermal areas, believing they had healing powers and ceremonial importance. A settler, William Bell Elliott, stumbled upon the site while hunting a grizzly bear in 1847, and was equally mesmerized, as he declared he had found the "Gates to Hades."
The first electricity was produced in 1920, using a small steam-engine generator, followed quickly by the first successful steam well dug, 200 feet deep. Today, the 333 wells are bored as much as two miles into the earth, capturing steam averaging 395˚F and much too hot to touch.
Adults and children alike will marvel at the interactive education center, learning how volcanoes and plate tectonics created the Geysers, and how, in the quest for ever-efficient energy, plant owners are evolving steam turbines into super rotors.
Besides being fun, the adventure gives you more respect for the powers of Mother Nature, and the value of electricity.
Details: Calpine Geothermal Visitors Center, 15500 Central Park Road, Middletown. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weds.-Sat. Admission is free. For the 2015 Geysers property/power plant tour schedule and to make reservations, visit geysers.com or call (707) 987-4270. All tours are free.
Tip: Make a green entrance to the garden parties, by hiring a private limo or Town Car for door-to-door service. Pure Luxury Transportation is a leader in environmental responsibility. As members of Green Ride Global™, Pure Luxury has committed to GHG emissions reductions from all areas of the company’s business operations of 20 percent over the next 5 years.