Sunday, December 13, 2009

But where, exactly, is Anderson Springs?

This story in the New York Times, "Geothermal Project in California is Shut Down," caught my eye in yesterday's paper. Here's the lede:
The company in charge of a California project to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from deep, hot bedrock has removed its drill rig and informed federal officials that the government project will be abandoned.

The project by the company, AltaRock Energy, was the Obama administration’s first major test of geothermal energy as a significant alternative to fossil fuels and the project was being financed with federal Department of Energy money at a site about 100 miles north of San Francisco called the Geysers.
The story caught my eye again later in the day when I saw it on the most emailed list at Both times I wondered if there was a rural story here, but it was hard to know for sure because there was no dateline, and the only place name mentioned in relation to the drilling was Anderson Springs. When I searched American FactFinder for Anderson Springs, no luck. Next, I searched, but again to no avail. There wasn't a listing for Anderson Springs, nor was it listed as a place within Napa, Lake, Sonoma or Mendocino counties--the counties that seemed like good candidates to be "100 miles north of San Francisco." Finally, I went to AltaRock Energy's site and found this map. Based on it, Anderson Springs (which is not actually designated as a place on the map) appears to be in Lake County, but very near the county boundaries with Sonoma and Napa counties. Indeed, it's not far at all--at least as the crow flies--from the aptly named Sonoma County town of Geyserville.

Other than teaching me the locale of Anderson Springs, this story taught me that geothermal energy capture, like drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale and elsewhere, is an activity that has more negative consequences for rural residents than for urban ones. Read an earlier story here about the fear of quakes that led to the project's shut down, as well as the cessation of a similar project in Switzerland. The AltaRock map also shows seismic activity within the Geysers' geothermal field. The NYT story closes with this related quote from a resident near the Anderson Springs site: “How I feel is beyond anything that words can express. ... I’m just so relieved, because with this going on, I’m afraid one of these days it’s going to knock my house off the hill.”

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