Geothermal power plants could be a massive source of Lithium for batteries


The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland.

In absolute terms, lithium is not particularly rare on Earth. It’s the 25th most abundant element, close to nickel and lead. Bolivia alone is estimated to have enough lithium to make batteries for 4.8 billion electric cars, and since lithium is not destroyed in use – unlike fossil fuels – old batteries can be recycled into new ones, or used to smooth out the output of wind farms.
So the question isn’t: Will we have enough lithium? Rather, it’s more like: As demand for it explodes, can we ramp up production rapidly enough, at a low enough cost, and while keeping it as environmentally-friendly as possible. It’s still probably going to be much better to make a battery once and then use it for years with progressively cleaner electricity (as the grid incorporates more and more renewable energy) rather than fill up a gas tank with non-renewable fossil fuels from halfway around the world every week, but even in that scenario, it’s going to be better if we can get the lithium cleanly and close to where we’ll use it. That’s where geothermal power plants enter the picture…

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