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USAID taps USC Viterbi for geothermal education effort

USAID Taps USC Viterbi for Geothermal Education Effort
Uniting to train geothermal specialists, from left: Iraj Ershaghi (USC VIterbi), Darharta Dahrin (ITB), Fred Aminzadeh (USC Viterbi) and Zuher Syihab (ITB)

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has selected the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to work with a top Indonesian university to train experts in geothermal power.

Faculty members from the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) recently came to Los Angeles to meet with USC professor Fred Aminzadeh and initiate the U.S.-Indonesian Geothermal Educational Capacity Building program.

Aminzadeh, a faculty member at USC Viterbi’s Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and its Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, is executive director of the USC Center for Geothermal Studies.

He will be working with ITB faculty, including Nenny Miryani Saptadji, manager of the geothermal graduate program; Darharta Dahrin, head of the institute’s research group in applied geophysics; and Zuher Syihab, a specialist in reservoir engineering.

“Geothermal energy is an extremely important clean energy source, particularly for California,” said USC Viterbi dean Yannis C. Yortsos, who has made many technical contributions in the field. “The USC Center for Geothermal Studies is expected to make a significant impact on improving our understanding of geothermal reservoirs and how best to tap into this type of renewable energy.”

Indonesia, a vast archipelago dotted with numerous active volcanoes, has great geothermal power resources, Aminzadeh said, but the country needs “to increase its experts … in the next few years to meet the technical staffing requirements of the projected dramatic increase in producing electricity from geothermal reservoirs.”

The plan is to have USC experts and resources, including its Distance Education Network and iPodia program, help ITB build its geothermal education program, with the help of Star Energy, an independent company based in Indonesia that operates a geothermal facility in western Java, only 24 miles from the ITB campus in the city of Bandung.

“This project is about providing educational opportunity and building a base of well-trained, technically capable professionals for the renewable energy industry. But it encompasses more than that. It is also about building the capacity and programs, and relationships between universities and industry, that will enable and empower the resource needed for all innovation and development: skilled and motivated people,” said Star Energy CEO Bret Mattes. “Building the capacity and quality of Indonesia’s geothermal education programs will have a profound impact on developing Indonesia’s vast geothermal resources for generations to come.”

The project is funded by USAID through 2014. According to the agreement, project goals are to:

• build capacity for the geothermal educational program at ITB, which will provide for expanding the number of graduates who focus on geothermal energy development;
• broaden the exposure of students and faculty to the global geothermal power business;
• provide opportunities for USC to further develop and expand its geothermal education programs through a partnership in one of the most resource-rich geothermal areas of the world;
• provide direct industry input into education initiatives and lead greater involvement and coordination between academia and industry in the Indonesian geothermal business (through Star Energy and other potential industry partners on the advisory board to be formed); and
• build on the experience base of both ITB and USC on geothermal-related education and research and development, with help from industry representatives to make such educational programs more relevant to the challenges and requirements of geothermal operators.

USAID taps USC Viterbi for geothermal education effort

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