Geothermal is coming to the rescue of California’s Salton Sea while also giving a huge boost to the industry with one of its biggest projects.
It starts with a 1.7 gigawatt (GW) geothermal project that will power over a million homes. Besides producing clean energy at this geothermal "hot spot," the money generated will finally provide much of the funding needed to restore critical habitat at Salton Sea.
Under the plan, Salton Sea would be designated a Renewable Energy Zone where solar and wind projects would be sited along with emerging resources such as algae and solar gradient ponds.
The Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative believes geothermal development alone could be worth at least $3 billion over 30 years – about a third of what’s needed for restoration.
"The plan is simple, realistic and achievable, relying on an updated version of the restoration model favored by the Salton Sea Authority and endorsed by Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Imperial County," Matt Dessert, president of Imperial Irrigation District and Ray Castillo, chair of Imperial County’s board of supervisors write in U-T San Diego.
Larger than Lake Tahoe, Salton Sea is California’s biggest lake, but because of water withdrawals and agricultural runoff, its ecosystem has been in steep decline for decades. More than 400 species of birds depend on the lake, which serves as a critical link for migrating birds as part of the Pacific Flyway.
About 20 geothermal plants are nearby, generating 20% of all the geothermal energy produced in the U.S.
In the US, geothermal grew 5% last year, adding a meager 147 MW from seven projects. A total of 3,386 MW in installed in the US, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, giving you some perspective on the significance of the Salton Sea project.
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