Imperial Valleys large geothermal potential but uncertain future

Hudson Ranch I geothermal power plant, March 2012, Salton Sea, California/ U.S. (source: EnergySource)
Alexander Richter 6 Jan 2014

A new study estimates large revenue potential of up to $4 billion from geothermal, solar and other renewables for the region for the next 30 years, but uncertainties on policy, transmission and power buyers constitute major obstacles to get there.

The Imperial Valley in California, is considered one of the largest geothermal areas in the United States. So it is maybe not surprising that a new report by the Imperial Irrigation District considers that “geothermal, solar and other green technologies could generate more than $4 billion in revenues for the Salton Sea region over the next 30 years.”

While this sounds impressive, it includes large unknowns due to the receding water levels of the Salton Sea. The costs for restoring the salt water sea are estimated to cost from $3 billion to $9 billion. So while the renewable technologies based revenues would help cover parts of it, it will not mean much money will be left over.

There are also additional challenges, last but not least to the optimistic estimates of large 100-200 MW geothermal plants, as raised by Vince Signorotti, VP of resource and real estate assets for EnergySource, a geothermal operator and developer in the Salton Sea. In the article cited here, he particularly points to the challenging mineral content of the geothermal brine in the area.

Any renewable development would also require a new larger transmission line to Substations in Southern California. Just permitting, planning and financing would take a long long time. Another large unknown is how policy will develop for renewables and in particular for geothermal. So while there is a large geothermal potential in the Salton Sea, it might not be as easy to economically develop resources for the benefit of the region.

Source: My Desert