New launch site may boost US geothermal energy capacity

May 7, 2014 0 By Amanda Giasson

Geothermal Energy - Salton Sea

A lake in California could be utilized to produce power.

Salton Sea could be a hotspot for geothermal energy and Imperial Irrigation District (IID), a local utility, is hoping to use this California lake to generate electricity by converting the heat that is naturally produced beneath it into energy.

Salton Sea is rich with geothermal resources.

Created in 1905 as a result of a Colorado River flood, Salton Sea is showing a lot of potential for being the new launch site for geothermal power in the United States. The salt water lake is located on the San Andreas Fault. At present, the shallow lake is 226 feet below sea level. It is considered to be a prime location for geothermal energy due to the fact that the earth naturally burns at 680 degrees Fahrenheit beneath the lake’s southern tip, which makes it an ideal heat source that could be transformed into power.

IID is the owner of the land, which is one of the few regions in the United States that has an abundance of geothermal resources. Imperial Irrigation District has launched the Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative in partnership with Imperial County, in an effort to obtain funds for renewable energy projects located at the lake to restore habitat and manage air quality. According to IID Energy Manager Carl Stills, it is the hope of the utility that it will be able to put the profits it receives toward the restoration of the receding Salton Sea.

U.S. geothermal energy capacity could be boosted by 50 percent.

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) recently backed the Salton Sea Restoration & Renewable Energy Initiative. According to GEA Analyst Benjamin Matek, “nearly two million homes” could be powered by the project, which is estimated to produce 1,700 MW (megawatts) of power over the course of 20 years. This would boost geothermal capacity by 50 percent.

However, there are a few complications. Finding practical spots for the injection wells may be easier said than done. The trouble is, depending on the area, these wells may be several miles deep. Also, Stills approximates that the cost of a single 50 MW geothermal energy plant will be $300 million. Furthermore, the building of a transmission line to connect the plant to the grid, which would cost $2.5 billion, would need to be approved by the state.

Spread the love