NREL has published a report with some fascinating points about renewable energy in the Salton Sea area.
- The capacity of geothermal development that could be constructed by 2030 is estimated at 1.05 GW to 1.81 GW.
- The solar PV capacity is estimated at 1.8 GW and the CSP or concentrating solar power is estimated at 1.3 GW.
- There is also a potential to produce over 39 million gallons of algal biofuel a year.
- 54,000 to 122,000 metric tons of lithium could be recovered annually from Salton Sea brines by 2030.
You can imagine that if all went smoothly, a significant amount of revenue would be generated from the selling of any excess electricity generated by these renewable sources. In fact, the revenue angle was mentioned by NREL as well, specifically as it relates to restoration of the natural resources there:
“Under current conditions, if the amounts estimated in the report are fully developed by 2030, geothermal land lease royalties that could be usable for Salton Sea restoration would range between $7 million–$15 million annually, depending primarily on lease rates and power purchase agreement pricing. Additional revenue streams from development of renewable energy projects could potentially range from $5.6 million to $77.8 million annually, but are dependent on future changes in technology and policy conditions.”
A different source noted that a 2013 study found that the region could generate about $4 billion between 2016 and 2045 from renewable energy development.
The Salton Sea is an important stopover for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. More than 375 bird species have been documented in the area, and over 70% of the California Burrowing Owl population is there.
It isn’t only wildlife that needs to be considered, because the extra exposed bottom soil will dry out and more dust will be added to the air, “The Pacific Institute says that by 2030, 100 square miles of lakebed could be exposed, spewing up to 30,000 tons of dust into Southern California’s air each year.”
Southern California already has air pollution issues, so including more dust would certainly not help matters.
Image Credit: Public Domain, Wiki Commons