|Controlled Thermal Resources CEO Rod Colwell discusses his company's plans during an interview by the southern shore of the Salton Sea, in California's Imperial County, on April 29, 2016. (Photo: Robert Hopwood/The Desert Sun)|
A new startup (Alger Alternative Energy) has acquired Simbol's lithium extraction technology. And it's partnered with Australian developers who are trying to build a massive geothermal power plant, which would be the region's first new geothermal facility in years. Together, the companies hope to start producing climate-friendly energy — and enormous quantities of valuable lithium — as soon as 2021.
"This year's actually the year we get down and dirty and covered in hydraulic fluid," said Rod Colwell, CEO of the Australian firm, Controlled Thermal Resources and GRC Member. "It's exciting to actually get on site."
Last year, Colwell's firm leased 1,880 acres from the Imperial Irrigation District, which owns the land where their project would be built. It's a desolate place — muddy, foul-smelling and punishingly hot for much of the year. Some of the land used to be covered in water, but the lake is receding fast. Several of the area's 11 geothermal plants can be seen belching steam in the distance.
Colwell originally planned to drill exploratory wells last fall, but the government approval process has taken longer than expected. Company officials now say they hope to start drilling in May, after getting their conditional use permit from Imperial County in the next month or two.
"We're 95 percent done, we’re just waiting on some final archaeological reports," said Jason Czapla, the firm's chief engineer, who moved from Australia to El Centro to oversee operations last year.