The Salton Sea could produce the world’s greenest lithium, if new extraction technologies work – by Katie Brigham ( – May 4, 2022)

About 40 miles north of the California-Mexico border lies the shrinking, landlocked lake known as the Salton Sea. Once the epicenter of a thriving resort community, water contamination and decades of drought have contributed to a collapse of the lake’s once vibrant ecosystem, and given rise to ghost towns.

But amidst this environmental disaster, the California Energy Commission estimates that there’s enough lithium here to meet all of the United States’ projected future demand, and 40% of the entire world’s demand. That’s big news for the booming electric vehicle industry, as lithium is the common denominator across all types of EV batteries.

Traditionally, lithium extraction involves either open-pit mining or evaporation ponds, which work by pumping lithium-containing brine to the surface and waiting for the water to dry up. Both of these methods have huge land footprints, are often very water-intensive, and can create lots of contamination and waste.

But at the Salton Sea, three companies are developing chemical processes to extract lithium in a much cleaner way, taking advantage of the Salton Sea’s rich geothermal resources. Near the lake, there are already 11 operating geothermal power plants, ten of which are owned by Berkshire Hathaway’s renewable energy division, BHE Renewables.

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