Lithium might seem like an unlikely object for the limelight, but those steeped in the mineral commodities market are not surprised. The need for lithium has grown exponentially in recent years. It plays a vital role in our high-tech world, particularly with rechargeable lithium batteries, which drive the growing market for portable electronic devices, electric tools, vehicles, and grid storage solutions. Global demand for lithium is expected to increase by 500% by 2050 due to the widespread adoption of these technologies.
Geothermal energy presents a solution to U.S. lithium needs. Hot salty water, or geothermal brine, is pumped to the surface and converted to a gas that turns a turbine to generate electricity from heat within the Earth. In addition to electricity production, these geothermal brines can yield lithium, brought up in the brine solution from thousands of feet underground. Geothermal electricity production is already environmentally friendly: It has a small physical footprint, is renewable and weather-independent, and is virtually carbon free. In repurposing the extracted fluids already used for electricity production as a lithium source, we can put domestic lithium onto the market while producing electricity simultaneously, all with a minimal environmental footprint.