Salton Sea Will Prove It Is Worth It’s Salt!…



This cluster of eleven geothermal plants is the largest of three major geothermal energy production sites in the Imperial Valley. A network of deep wells drilled in the geothermal field allow water – heated by the earth’s mantle – to come to the surface and to power electrical generators. Owned by the CalEnergy Company, the electricity is sold to the local power utility and put on the grid. The eleven plants in this field produce enough electricity to power over 100,000 homes.


Simbol Materials was a darling of the clean-tech world, until it suddenly wasn’t. The startup claimed it had developed extraordinary technology to extract lithium, a metal used in electric car batteries, from the geothermal brine by the Salton Sea’s southern shore. Elon Musk was so excited that Tesla Motors offered to buy the startup for $325 million, as The Desert Sun reported earlier this year.

For reasons that are still unclear, the Tesla deal fell through, and Simbol failed to secure other financing. It’s hard to say whether the startup’s proprietary technology didn’t work as advertised, or whether mismanagement doomed the company. Either way, Simbol fired the vast majority of its employees last year and has ceased operations.

Now, another company says it’s on the verge succeeding where Simbol failed.

EnergySource, which runs the 50-megawatt Featherstone geothermal plant, has been testing a new process to extract lithium and other metals from the underground brine it uses to generate electricity, according to Eric Spomer, the company’s president and chief executive. The results have been promising enough that a Texas investment group just bought a 38.5-percent ownership interest in EnergySource. The firm has invested additional money to fund more thorough testing of the extraction process, which Spomer expects to take about six months.

If EnergySource has figured out how to make money extracting lithium, the consequences could be enormous — not only for the electric carmakers, who are hungry for the metal, but for the region’s geothermal industry, which has stalled in recent years. Building a geothermal plant is expensive, and lithium would be a lucrative new revenue stream that would geothermal more attractive to investors.


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