Salton Sea Clean Energy and Lithium Project Gets Approval: The Kiplinger Letter

California's Salton Sea is due to see the construction of a new lithium extraction and geothermal clean energy power plant.

A colorful sunset sky reflection on the Salton Sea at Bombay Beach.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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Some good news on the clean-energy front: Lithium mining in the Salton Sea in California will proceed, with Australian firm Controlled Thermal Resources beginning construction on a new mineral extraction and geothermal power plant.

The benefits of the Hell’s Kitchen project will be twofold: First, the lithium it will produce. The facility will initially output 25,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide annually, with production projected to eventually reach 175,000 MT per year, if all goes well. Federal researchers say that the brine beneath the sea may contain enough lithium to make batteries for at least 375 million electric vehicles. Other estimates are higher. For perspective, there are fewer than 300 million autos of any kind on the road today. 

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Second, clean power — at least 50 megawatts is expected annually to start, possibly rising to 350 MW over time — generated from the superheated brine that contains the lithium. Unlike other clean power, geothermal can operate constantly, using the Earth’s heat. But there are only a few places, like the Salton Sea, where such projects are feasible. 

Note that opponents of the project are still threatening lawsuits, with claims of insufficient environmental reviews and possibly harmful effects on nearby residents.

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Matthew Housiaux
Reporter, The Kiplinger Letter
Housiaux covers the White House and state and local government for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in June 2016, he lived in Sioux Falls, SD, where he was the forum editor of Augustana University's student newspaper, the Mirror. He also contributed stories to the Borgen Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on raising awareness of global poverty. He earned a B.A. in history and journalism from Augustana University.