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 is continuing to work with Jonathan Weisgall, Assemblymember Eddie Garcia, and environmental justice, labor, and community organizations to advance the development of geothermal energy and lithium recovery in the Imperial Valley. Among the issues being considered in the Governor’s budget proposal are regulatory streamlining, fiscal incentives, workforce training, community benefits, and ways to engage environmental justice and community groups in the planning and environmental reviews of geothermal and lithium recovery projects.

V. John White and Meenatchie Odaiyappan, a graduate fellow from UC Riverside, have been collaborating on a report and draft feasibility study about the potential of importing water from the Sea of Cortez, perhaps combined with a desalination plant, to support the expansion of geothermal development and a lithium recovery and manufacturing industry, as well as an additional supply to replace Colorado River water being curtailed because of the West-wide drought.