Education and Training
Holm (2011) provides a guide to geothermal education and training. Her report is the basis for the following discussion.
The U.S. educational system has had only limited coursework available that is related specifically to geothermal development until relatively recently. Most professionals and skilled workers received their academic training in allied fields, such as petroleum engineering, mineral or petroleum exploration, or power plant operation related to fossil-fuelled electrical generation.
Because geothermal electrical development should be handled as the combined production of geothermal fluid and electricity, the training of geothermal professionals in a systems approach to joint operation of the geothermal field and power production would be useful. Although little has been published on this aspect of geothermal operation, papers by Bloomfield and Mines (2000, 2002) suggest that combined operation of a resource and its geothermal power plant can mitigate resource decline and temperature breakthrough,20 while also increasing plant revenue. Interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence in Earth Resources Engineering (as envisioned in Chapter 7, Box 7.3) would be a logical environment for the interdisciplinary training required.
Long-standing geothermal educational opportunities have been available at Stanford University, providing master’s and doctorate degrees specializing in geothermal reservoir engineering, and at the Southern Methodist University Geothermal Laboratory, training geoscientists in geothermal exploration. More recently, the University of Nevada at Reno has offered opportunities for geosciences research related to geothermal resources.
Because of increased geothermal activity and spurred by the private-sector and federal funding, a number of colleges, universities, and training institutions across the country recently have begun providing undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs related to geothermal development and operation.
Holm (2011) provides an extensive listing of institutions that provide coursework, research opportunities, and degrees or certificates in technology needed by the geothermal industry. Two of the opportunities listed are briefly described below.
The National Geothermal Academy (NGA) at the University of Nevada, Reno, Redfield Campus offers an intensive 8-week summer program on all aspects of geothermal energy development and utilization. A consortium of geothermal schools administers the DOE-funded NGA, using teachers from academia and the geothermal industry.
Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, offers a Geothermal Plant Operators Program for training geothermal technicians (Box 3.2). The
20 Temperature or thermal breakthrough means that cooler water is moving into the geothermal reservoir and cooling it.