NPR All Things Considered special on the FORGE project entitled 'The Forgotten Renewable: Geothermal Energy Production Heats Up'.
Three and a half hours east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, a manmade oasis in the heart of the Mojave Desert. It was created in 1905, when a canal broke and the Colorado River flooded the desert for more than a year. The Sea became a tourist hotspot in the 1950's, perfect for swimming, boating, and kayaking. But now, people are coming here looking for something else.
Jim Turner is the chief operating officer of Controlled Thermal Resources, an energy company from Australia. On a hill overlooking the Salton Sea, he points out a patch of land that will someday house his company's first power plant, named Hell's Kitchen.
"We're standing on top of what is probably the most robust geothermal resource in the United States," he explains.
Geothermal energy uses the earth's natural heat to create electricity. While there are several different ways to accomplish this, the most common is to take super-heated water from geothermal hot spots and pipe it to the surface. It then turns into steam and spins a turbine, which generates electricity.
It's completely renewable, and generates clean energy around the clock, unlike wind and solar.
"You think of renewable energy as a house, solar is the roof and the wind is the walls," says Jason Czapla, principal engineer for Controlled Thermal Resources. "But geothermal's the foundation, and what California did is it built the walls and the roof, but on wild, windy days it blows too much rain on the roof [and] that house falls down. Well, the Salton Sea is this opportunity for California to fix that."
The company wants to develop 1,000 megawatts of electricity here over the next decade. They say that could power about 800,000 homes. And for a state that's aiming to get half its electricity from renewable sources, that's no small number.
"Our development coincides with the state's target, 2030 being the ultimate goal getting to 50 percent," says Czapla. "And our goal is to build up that 1,000 megawatts and help them increase the renewable energy portfolio."
To read the full NPR story, click here.