Imperial County Approves Environmental Review for Lithium Development Project
The Imperial County Planning Commission approved a series of resolutions for a new integrated geothermal plant and lithium extraction facility in the Salton Sea Geothermal Field. The approvals on December 13, 2023 included the environmental impact review, completing the most difficult permitting issues for the project.
Lithium is a key component in batteries for EVs, and the 1,100MW Hell's Kitchen Lithium and Power project is projected to produce an estimated 150,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide each year and produce enough lithium for 5 million electric vehicle (EV) batteries a year. Controlled Thermal Resources is the project developer.
Opponents of the Hell’s Kitchen project argue that the review has not sufficiently addressed the project’s impact on water consumption. A recent report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report states that proposed geothermal energy and lithium recovery operations “will have a modest impact on water availability in the region.” It states that the currently proposed geothermal energy and lithium recovery operations will require approximately 3% of the historically available water supply for the region.
The Imperial Valley in Southern California has become known as Lithium Valley due to the potentially large resource of lithium in the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea likely contains 18 million metric tons of lithium carbonate, according to a report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. These deposits could support battery production for 375 million EVs. (See Salton Sea Lithium Deposits Could Support 375 Million Electric Vehicles.)
California’s lithium deposits are critical for both helping the U.S. become a global lithium producer and in developing an in-state supply chain for the state’s move to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). (see All New Cars Sold in California Must be ZEVs by 2035.)