Salton Sea has Lithium to create enough batteries for 382 million EVs | Mint
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Business News/ Industry / Salton Sea has Lithium to create enough batteries for 382 million EVs
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Salton Sea has Lithium to create enough batteries for 382 million EVs

The Salton Sea presents a potential lithium goldmine, but challenges persist, including technical difficulties and the need for increased geothermal energy production.

Fine Image: A container of lithium carbonate sits in a shipping warehouse in Nevada, USA. The Energy Department is making a push to strengthen the U.S. battery supply chain up to $3.5 billion for companies that produce batteries and the critical minerals that go into them (AP Photo/John Locher, File)Premium
Fine Image: A container of lithium carbonate sits in a shipping warehouse in Nevada, USA. The Energy Department is making a push to strengthen the U.S. battery supply chain up to $3.5 billion for companies that produce batteries and the critical minerals that go into them (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

An analysis by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, funded by the United States Department of Energy, has found promising prospects for lithium extraction from California’s Salton Sea, as per a report in the LA Times.

The analysis found an estimated 18 million metric tonnes of lithium reserves in the depths of the Salton Sea. Lithium is an element that is essential for electric vehicle (EV) batteries and renewable energy storage systems. The substantial find could potentially yield an equivalent of 382 million EV batteries, boosting the quest for sustainable energy solutions, it added.

Environment, promise, challenges, and economy

While the Salton Sea presents a potential lithium goldmine, it is grappling with environmental threats. Decreasing water levels due to climate change have raised concerns about the lake's shrinking size, triggering toxic dust storms impacting the local community.

Also Read: China is winning Africa's white gold rush for Lithium

However, compared to other lithium extraction sites facing environmental opposition, experts find the Salton Sea extraction process relatively eco-friendly. The region already stands as a bastion of clean energy, notably with its geothermal electricity generation.

Thus, several companies aiming to capitalise on this resource have come calling. San Diego-based EnergySource and Australian start-up Controlled Thermal Resources are those that have secured substantial investments to harness geothermal energy and extract lithium. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Energy also aims to develop profitable extraction techniques.

Also Read: Exxon Makes Lithium Play in Long-Term Bet on EV Demand

A cautionary outlook, balanced approach

Despite the promising analysis, challenges persist. Geothermal energy remains expensive, new plant constructions have stagnated, and existing lithium extraction attempts faced setbacks due to technical difficulties. Moreover, the estimated 18 million metric tonnes of lithium might not be readily achievable without significant technological advancements and increased geothermal energy production.

Researchers are still investigating critical factors like the replenishment rate of the lithium resource, crucial for sustainable production levels. And with the urgency of the climate crisis, global efforts to curb emissions remain paramount.

Also Read: Joe Biden’s Electric-Vehicle Push Hits a Speed Bump

While the Salton Sea offers potential, it's not a standalone solution. The United Nations' recent warning underscores the pressing need for diverse investments in lithium development, renewable energy, and alternatives to fossil fuels. A cautious approach, considering local and global impacts, is imperative.

Thus, those championing solutions like Salton Sea's lithium extraction and geothermal energy need to acknowledge the trade-offs. Balancing broader environmental benefits with localised concerns, and prioritising the larger environmental picture over immediate interests like batteries is crucial for a sustainable future amidst the looming climate crisis.

Also Read: EVs Are on a Lithium Roller Coaster

In essence, while Salton Sea's lithium reserves offer promise, the road to tapping into this resource sustainably requires careful consideration and a multifaceted approach in the broader context of combating climate change.

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Published: 29 Nov 2023, 01:56 PM IST
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