Geothermal Visual: NREL’s New Salton Sea Report Shows 1,800 MW Geothermal Potential

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new report focusing on an area of interest to the geothermal industry located in southern California’s Imperial Valley.

“The Potential for Renewable Energy Development to Benefit Restoration of the Salton Sea: Analysis of Technical and Market Potential” estimates the geothermal potential at the Salton Sea to be up to 1,800 MW, the report states.

NREL stated, “Funded through a grant from the State of California Natural Resources Agency, under Agreement No. 0540-SSA 1, the Salton Sea Authority (SSA) is preparing the Salton Sea Funding and Feasibility Action Plan to address this need. . . Of the commercially available renewable energy technologies, geothermal, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) have the greatest technical potential for development.”

Geothermal development by 2030 is estimated at 1.05 GW to 1.81 GW of generation capacity, according to the report. Potential mineral recovery of lithium from Salton Sea geothermal brines is also considered in the report and is estimated at “54,000 to 122,000 metric tons annually by 2030, with significant uncertainty due to limited well data.”

Prior revenue potential estimates, technical reviews of renewable energy technologies, and estimates for developable production potential through 2030 are all within the scope of the 173-page report.

NREL included data from GEA in its report. “Based on data from the GEA, the current nameplate geothermal capacity in Imperial County is 715.2 MW,” according to the report. “The Salton Sea area has the majority of the nameplate (installed) capacity, with 402.2 MW in Imperial County.”

On October 9, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a bill supporting restoration of the Salton Sea, and the Natural Resources Agency is now required to submit to the Legislature a list of shovel-ready Salton Sea restoration projects on or before March 31, 2016.

This article was originally published in the Geothermal Energy Association’s GeoEnergyWire and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Salton Sea landscape. Credit: Shutterstock.

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Leslie is located in Washington DC at the Office of the Geothermal Energy Association and serves on the Renewable Energy World North America Conference and Expo committee.

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