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SDSU Imperial Valley Breaks Ground on $80 Million Lithium Valley Labs


San Diego State University marked a historic milestone in the development of SDSU Imperial Valley with the official groundbreaking of the SDSU Imperial Valley Sciences and Engineering Laboratories in Brawley. The ceremony was attended by university leaders, elected officials, and partners, emphasizing the significance of this new chapter.

The project, initially announced in May 2022, is made possible by a substantial $80 million state funding initiative from Governor Gavin Newsom. Aimed at expanding STEM opportunities, the facility aligns with regional plans for substantial economic growth, positioning California as the “Lithium Valley.” With additional investments from SDSU, the state-of-the-art facility is slated to open its doors in the fall of 2025.

Governor Newsom emphasized the broader impact of the groundbreaking, stating, “This state-of-the-art teaching and research hub at San Diego State University Imperial Valley will advance access to skill-building and career pathways to high-opportunity, green jobs in California’s Lithium Valley — empowering our communities and protecting our planet for generations to come.”

The Sciences and Engineering Laboratories will not only serve as a hub for teaching and research but also house a STEM Innovation Hub fostering collaboration among students and faculty. The design reflects the culture and identity of the community, further strengthening the university’s commitment to meeting the demands of the geothermal energy sector and empowering the local workforce.

SDSU President Adela de la Torre expressed, “This groundbreaking is a testament to our continued commitment to the Valley community, of which SDSU Imperial Valley is fortunate to have been a part for more than six decades.”

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia echoed these sentiments, highlighting the transformative impact on education and economic empowerment in the region. He stated, “The new Sciences and Engineering Laboratories in Brawley, which includes a STEM Innovation District, is a vital component of our community-driven Lithium Valley vision as we aim to strengthen high-skilled workforce opportunities and uplift the economic circumstances of our area.”

Guillermina Gina Nuñez-Mchiri, SDSU Imperial Valley dean, added, “Our new Sciences and Engineering Laboratories will not only prepare the next generation of leaders in Imperial Valley but will also create a space for community, collaboration, and knowledge within our staff, faculty, and students.”

The groundbreaking aligns with the County of Imperial’s vision to boost overall wealth through private economic investment, focusing on lithium and rare mineral extraction, processing, and renewable energy generation/storage. Lithium, a key mineral in rechargeable batteries, holds significant potential in Imperial County, which possesses abundant geothermal brine at the Salton Sea.

While the United States currently contributes only 1% to global lithium production, Imperial County’s vast resources could provide a substantial boost. The region’s geothermal potential, estimated at 1,000-1,500 MW, coupled with extensive lithium deposits, positions the U.S. to gain control over critical materials in the electric vehicle and electronics supply chain, ensuring greater stability in energy supply.

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