Imperial County is blessed with an abundance of green energy potential. Located in the southeastern corner of California, the County focuses on agriculture. However, it is fast becoming an energy center.

 

Solar Energy

The first area is solar energy. As a hot, desert climate Imperial County offers abundant solar energy opportunity. Numerous power complexes are in operation. More are in the planning stages.

 

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is another vital source. Imperial County has more geothermal generating capacity than just about anywhere else in the United States. Geothermal energy provides a steady, reliable source of energy with little impact on the environment or habitats.

Units 1 and 2. Salton Sea Shoreline with Obsidian Butte in the foreground.

Currently, Imperial County has four operating geothermal energy fields. They produce an approximate 550 megawatts of power to the grid. About 400 megawatts of power comes from the Salton Sea geothermal field. This field is one of the largest, hottest, and saline geothermal fields in the world. The Salton Sea field could be expanded by an additional 2,000 megawatts (estimated).

The Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative plans on developing up to 1,700 megawatts of new geothermal energy. As a benefit, this form of energy offers a way to cover exposed playa while potentially creating dollars for mitigation projects and economic development. In other words, if done right, geothermal has little impact on habitats and can help to restore the Salton Sea’s natural environment.

“Numerous efforts are underway right now,” states Alexander Schriener, Jr., P.G., an Associate Geologist with Earth Systems. “If we can overcome the challenges to develop the Salton Sea’s geothermal energy potential, this area could be an energy leader.”

On March 15h – 17th, 2017, the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation (IVEDC) is hosting the 10th Annual Imperial Valley Renewable Energy Summit. The theme is “The Energy Water Nexus”. The summit gathers key renewable energy professionals, policy makers, and regulators. Earth Systems is one of the exhibitors.

 

The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is the largest lake totally within the State of California. It is mainly within Imperial County with a small segment in Riverside County. About 70% of the water that sustains the Lake comes from irrigation runoff from the New and Alamo rivers in Imperial County. With new approved water transfer agreements, the amount of irrigation runoff is expected to decline significantly after 2017. When that happens a steep decline in the volume of water and newly exposed shoreline occurs.

The Salton Sea Authority and California Natural Resources Agency Salton Sea Management Plan are tasked with reviewing and proposing mitigation plans during this water decline. Some of these plans involve covering the exposed shoreline with alternative energy projects, such as solar power arrays, algae farms, and solar gradient ponds. The Salton Sea is a major stop over point for birds along the Pacific Flyway where birds seasonally migrate between North and South America. The loss of habitat seriously impacts bird species. Some are already endangered species. One plan in consideration builds a water convenience system to better utilize the limited remaining water. Then it constructs ponds and wetlands to minimize the loss of habitat with the decline of the lake water.

 

For further information on these types of projects, specifically geotechnical engineering, soils testing, and geothermal energy, feel free to contact Earth Systems.