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:

CEERT has been working with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s office on several proposals to implement recommendations of the Lithium Valley Advisory Committee, including the establishment of a new planning agency for Imperial and Riverside counties. We are collaborating with Jonathan Weisgall on implementation and dissemination of California Energy Commission-funded lithium recovery demonstration projects, and on accelerating procurement and transmission for new geothermal projects that would enable an expansion of lithium recovery.

V. John White and Jose Carmona are part of a Technical Advisory Committee providing technical expertise and support to Luis Olmedo and Comite Civico del Valle (CCV) on the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report and Health Risk Assessment of future geothermal and lithium recovery in Imperial County. We are working with CCV, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the Imperial Irrigation District, and other stakeholders in developing an unprecedented community benefits package that includes infrastructure investments, a tax on lithium production to fund local mitigation and community benefits, workforce training and STEM education in Imperial County schools and community colleges, and project labor agreements with local building and trades unions.