Australian firm could bring back large-scale geothermal development to California

Rod Colwell, CEO of Controlled Thermal Resources on the project site in the Salton Sea
Alexander Richter 25 Jan 2017

Australian backed firm Controlled Thermal Resources is planning the largest geothermal development in California at the Salton Sea, with development plans of 280 MW in the first stage and plans of up to 750 MW.

Over the past year, there have been news about plans for a new large scale geothermal development in the Salton Sea in California. Controlled Thermal Resources and Alger Alternative Energy are pushing forward with plans for the development of geothermal power generation facilities that could have more than 6 times the output of current facilities in the region.

With the first geothermal development in California in the 1960s at the Geysers north of San Francisco, development elsewhere in the state and at the Salton Sea area has been rather small in size compared to other power generation technologies.

Planning with economies of scale, the partners planning bigger operations that would also tackle one of the key issues of utilising geothermal resources in the Imperial Valley, the high salt content of the geothermal fluid. By planning bigger, the developers hope to produce power sufficiently cheap to lure utilities and other large-scale buyers.  So far, they are not even considering government subsidies at all in their models.

Alger Alternative Energy as partner, plans to tap into the business of extracting minerals from the operations, which could help bolster the bottom line for the operations of the pant.  With estimates of 100 million metric tons of recoverable lithium around the Salton Sea, this could be a profitable business. Lithium is in high demand worldwide in an increasing drive to electric cars that depend on battery storage using lithium. We previously reported about another company Simbol Materials, which was not able to move ahead with its plans for mineral extractions from the geothermal operations of the Hudson Ranch geothermal power plant by EnergySource at the Salton Sea.

The untapped potential for geothermal power generation capacity lies between 1,600 and 2,000 MW, with Controlled Thermal Resources planning with a 280 MW development to start with with a potential of development of up to 750 MW in the future. Currently there are geothermal power plants with an installed capacity of 450 MW in the Imperial Valley.

So far, the developer and its plans need to be proven. There is little known about the partners of the project, but one can surely hope that they will be successful.

Meeting Rod Colwell, the CEO of Controlled Thermal Resources at the GRC/ GEA events in Sacramento last year, he said that the company has been going through a fund raising phase for exploratory drilling. It is planned to drill the first slim holes for the project in February/ March this year and then further drilling planned for 2018. An initial development of 140 MW could see a start of operation in late 2020/ 2021.



Source: LA Times, Financial Review