Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Biofuels, Chemistry, Climate Change, Environment
California and the Biden administration are pushing incentives to make the United States a global leader in a market that’s beginning to boom: the production of lithium, the lightweight metal needed for the batteries of electric vehicles, and for the storage of renewable energy from power plants.
At the moment nearly all the lithium used in the United States must be imported from China and other nations. But that trend could shift within two years if an efficient method is found to remove lithium from power plant waste in California.
Since the 1970s, California has built power plants that make electricity from geothermal energy—steam from saltwater heated by magma from the molten core of the Earth. It now accounts for 6 percent of California’s power, but it is more expensive to produce than other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.
But that calculus could change if the wastewater from the process—a whitish, soup-like brine that contains a mixture of dissolved minerals and metals including lithium—can be separated so the lithium could be extracted.
According to a study by the Department of Energy, the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley—one of two large geothermal energy production sites in the state—could produce as much as 600,000 tons of lithium annually.
U.S. Looks to Extract Lithium for Batteries from Geothermal Waste, John Fialka, Scientific American