EL CENTRO – Scientists and local geothermal officials agree that the Salton Sea is one of the world’s most active regions for geothermal development with the potential of becoming a leader and home to some of the nation’s largest geothermal power plants and mining operations.
Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR), an Australian-based geothermal development corporation, is currently developing a utility scale renewable energy project at the Salton Sea and has plans to lead the way for Imperial County to become home to the world’s largest geothermal plant.
On January 24, Rod Colwell, CEO and founder of Controlled Thermal Resources, presented the Imperial County Board of Supervisors with a broad overview of the company’s proposed “Hell’s Kitchen Geothermal Project.”
Colwell said CTS has secured a site at the Salton Sea with high geothermal resources and mineral rights, and has plans for development over multiple stages. The first stage includes plans for developing a power plant capable of generating 280-megawatts of geothermal energy by 2020 with a power plant scalable in 140-megawatt stages and up to 750 megawatts lease potential. Combined with the existing 450 megawatts produced by geothermal energy plants currently in the the Valley, Imperial County could become the leader in this industry.
Currently, CTR is working towards the incorporation of minerals extraction from the geothermal brine. The geothermal brine in the Salton Sea geothermal field contains an abundance of minerals in solution, according to Colwell.
The project currently is in the beginning stage and according to Colwell, the excavating of manganese, zinc, lithium carbonate, which is used for battery production, and other minerals, could begin as early as 2019.
Colwell also said it is estimated there are currently 100 million metric tons of recoverable lithium around the Salton Sea which would ultimately generate sizable profits for the county.
“Experts estimate that lithium-ion battery demand could reach 300,000 metric tons a year by 2020,” explained Colwell. “The IID estimates that mining royalties at the Salton Sea could reach $1.5 billion ($51 million annually).”
The project is expected to generate up to 400 jobs by 2020.
“One of the most important things that we can do for the economical growth and job creation in Imperial County is to push for geothermal renewable energy,” said Michael Kelley, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
According to experts, the Salton Sea is the largest untapped geothermal resource area, and is regarded the largest untapped geothermal reserve in the in the country, if not the world.
“CTS has brought ingenuity and innovation into this Valley,” said Ryan Kelley, District 4 supervisor. “It is an economic drive to to this Valley to change the conditions that we have been living with. The development of the natural resources in this Valley are going to have a significant role upon changing the employment an economy here.”
“This is the direction this Valley ought to be going in and economic development — that is a big thing for us,” said John Renison, District 1 supervisor.
“I’m glad to see something solid is going to be coming soon,” said Raymond Castillo, District 5 supervisor. “I’m really looking forward to this.”