Geothermal Development and Lithium Recovery

Lithium can be recovered from the brine that geothermal power plants pump from deep in the earth. Pilot projects have demonstrated that this extractive method is a significantly more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging way to produce lithium, an essential element for auto and energy-storage batteries. Lithium extraction would greatly boost the economic prospects of geothermal energy plants by creating a substantial new revenue stream, and could stimulate a new generation of plants in the Known Geothermal Resource Area by Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea. CEERT has helped develop and execute a Knowledge Transfer Plan to advance the commercial viability of this technology, and is working on procurement strategies for new geothermal development to support the future expansion of the lithium industry.

Recent Developments:

V. John White has been working with Jonathan Weisgall, Assemblymember Eddie Garcia and other stakeholders, including environmental justice, labor, and community organizations in the Imperial Valley. There has also been significant engagement with the Biden Administration, including site visits by key state and federal officials, including Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. Among the issues being discussed are regulatory streamlining, fiscal incentives, workforce training, community benefits, and how best to engage environmental justice and community groups in the planning and environmental reviews of geothermal and lithium recovery projects. In addition, V. John White attended a Symposium on the Salton Sea, sponsored by UC Riverside, that included discussions on the geologic history of the region and the potential of imported water from the Sea of Cortez, perhaps combined with a desalination plant.