LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Konocti Christian Academy’s third and fourth graders enjoyed a field trip to Calpine to cap off a series of science lessons about electricity.
Accompanied by their teacher, Becky Madison, and eight parents, 16 students participated.
When the children arrived, they explored Calpine’s visitor center and geothermal power.
They learned that deep below the earth’s surface, temperatures are extremely high. The heat radiates to other layers of rock, heating water that is trapped in pores and fractures. That water turns into steam, and Calpine can turn that steam into electricity using turbine engines.
The Calpine plant in Middletown generates more geothermal energy than any other place in the world,
and its impact on the environment is minimal.
To ensure that the water Calpine uses is replenished, wastewater from Santa Rosa and Lake County is injected into the Geysers Reservoir.
“If you are in Lake County and live north of 11th Street in Lakeport,” explained Calpine personnel, “every time you flush your toilet, the water comes here.”
Naturally, that explanation prompted a few giggles among the students.
The children climbed aboard Calpine’s tour bus and began the steep winding climb over rugged terrain to the first stop of the day.
Donning hardhats, eye protection and earplugs, students got to see and smell the hydrogen sulfide abatement system.
“It smells like rotten eggs,” commented fourth grader Allison Stangland, staring at the massive powdery substance emanating from the system. Several of her classmates concurred.
From there, students toured the control room, where they peppered Calpine staff with questions.
Walls full of switches and levers prompted fourth grader Michael Wiser to ask, “How many buttons do you have in here?”
Third grader Megan Call asked, “What do all those buttons do?"
And fourth grader Lauren Trippeer asked, “Why is there a basketball hoop in the plant?”
After exploring the control room, the children got back on the tour bus and saw where huge drills had bored holes deep into the earth.
They also saw Calpine’s massive pipes where steam was being trapped to make electricity. One of the pipes had a small leak, so students could see what the steam looked like and how it travels.
As the bus made its way to the summit, the bus driver stopped to point out a spot where Black Bart had hidden among the boulders during his infamous stage coach robberies during the 1870s.
He explained how Black Bart was finally caught when he left a handkerchief behind at the scene of the crime.
A watermark on the handkerchief enabled detectives to determine where he had had his laundry done. They staked out the laundry until he returned and made their arrest, a story which the students found fascinating.
At the tour’s summit, students took in the spectacular view, which included layer after layer of mountainous terrain and a clear expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
During their electricity unit at school, the children drew wiring diagrams, conducted experiments, and made their own circuit boards with batteries and levers. The field trip to Calpine culminated the
unit with a full day off campus.
“Hands on experience,” explained Madison, “makes classroom lessons more fun and relevant. Students really benefit from this type of exposure.”
It was a great day for Konocti Christian Academy’s third and fourth graders, who extended their thanks to Calpine.
“I wish we could have field trips every day,” said fourth grader Alex Hadgis, summing up a great day at school.