Wednesday, December 28, 2011

USA, California:

Imperial Valley’s Unique Combination of Solar and Geothermal Resources Make it a Hotbed of Renewable Energy Activity, and Controversy

The Salton Sea (Courtesy

Stretching 50 miles from southeastern California’s Salton Sea across the border with Mexico to the Gulf of California, the Imperial Valley is an area of unique desert beauty, one that lies almost entirely below sea level. The area is also somewhat rare in its combination of geothermal and solar energy resources.

County Supervisors pointed out that while farming remains a significant part of the Imperial Valley economy, it does not “keep the country afloat.” They noted that the region’s unemployment rate remains at a very high 20%-30%, which drives many of the younger generation out of the area in search of employment.

Imperial Valley county commissioners and members of the community are looking to renewable energy development to change that. When you consider the relative or comparative natural resource strengths of the area, the Imperial Valley has distinct advantages when it comes to solar and geothermal power. As an agricultural region, it could be considered marginal.

The county is the second-largest geothermal energy producer in the US, generating more than 500-MW of clean, renewable electricity. Geothermal resources surrounding the Salton Sea have the potential to produce more than 2,000-MW, according to the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp.

In September, Simbol Materials started drawing geothermal brine from the Salton Sea as it commenced commercial production of lithium carbonate, an electrolyte used in the manufacture of electric vehicles (EV). Simbol’s producing high-quality manganese and zinc, as well as lithium, at its 500-metric ton facility.