California’s Imperial County plans lithium mining & geothermal energy

Mud volcanoes at Salton Sea. Author: Matthew Dillon. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

February 21 (Renewables Now) - The board of supervisors of California’s Imperial County last Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to adopt a plan for the development of the Lithium Valley, which includes geothermal energy production.

In a couple of presentations last week, it was unveiled that Imperial County’s Lithium Valley may hold up to 15 million metric tonnes of lithium and rare mineral resources. Lithium is a vital mineral in rechargeable batteries, whether used in portable computing devices, electric vehicles (EVs) or energy storage.

It has also been determined that geothermal production in the county may expand to between 1,500 MW and 3,000 MW over the next two decades as there is an estimated 1,000 MW-1,500 MW of additional generation available.

The so-called Lithium Valley Economic Opportunity Investment Plan (LVIP) outlines the specific actions that need to be taken by the county and includes certain calls directed towards the state and the federal government. One such request is that the California Energy Commission (CEC) grants Imperial County the ability to permit geothermal power projects up to 99.9 MW, doubling the current limit of 49.9 MW. Some changes to the definition of “net-to-grid” have also been requested.

“The mining of lithium (and other rare-earth minerals) in addition to geothermal power generation provide the opportunity for the United States to have greater control over needed material in the supply chain for electric vehicles and consumer/commercial electronics while providing greater stability to our energy supply,” it is stated in the plan.

One of the largest requests in terms of state funding support – USD 100 million (EUR 88m) – is in relation to the establishment of a California Polytechnical University (Cal-Poly) in Lithium Valley. Such a campus would educate the engineers and chemists needed to work in the geothermal and lithium development sector, the plan says.

Meanwhile, Imperial County is requesting from the federal government USD 500 million in funding offsets for grid upgrades and wheeling charges from energy producers.

(USD 1.0 = EUR 0.880)

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Ivan is the mergers and acquisitions expert in Renewables Now with a passion for big deals and ambitious capacity plans.

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