Geothermal energy got a big boost after the Energy Commission approved more than $7 million in grant awards to projects from its Geothermal Grant and Loan Program.
The geothermal grants approved in June support a wide range of efforts for geothermal energy - the state's most constant form of renewable energy. The grants fund new technology and research to aid the development and evolution of geothermal in California.
Geothermal is a key asset in California's goal to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The grants may lead to the creation of revenue and jobs for some regions in California.
One geothermal grant award was a $2.5 million award to EnergySource Minerals, LLC for geothermal mineral and brine recovery in Imperial County at the Salton Sea. Imperial County is the state's second most important geothermal area after The Geysers in Lake and Sonoma counties.
The grant is an outgrowth of Senate Bill 1074, authored by State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), which calls for awarding funding to a project that focuses on recovering lithium, agricultural products, metals and other beneficial minerals from geothermal brines.
Geothermal power plants produce a large volume of brine. The potential economic benefit of mineral recovery from geothermal brines is well established. However, very little geothermal brine mineral recovery is being done in the United States.
The brine recovery is expected to create jobs and add a new revenue stream in the Salton Sea area of lmperial County which is an economically depressed area.
A study of the composition of geothermal brines in the Salton Sea has shown that the potential revenue from extraction of metals could exceed the revenue from geothermal power production.
There are 44 operating geothermal power plants in California, with an installed capacity of 2,716 megawatts. There are 20 geothermal plants in Imperial County.
In 2015, geothermal energy produced 11,994 gigawatt-hours of electricity in California and accounted for 4.4 percent of the state's total system power.