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USAID Chooses Viterbi School for Indonesia Geothermal Education Effort

USC Center for Geothermal Studies Director Fred Aminzadeh will work with the Institut Teknologi Bandung to train specialists

December 01, 2011 —

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.

Fred Aminzadeh is executive director of the USC Center for Geothermal Studies.
Faculty members from the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) recently came to Los Angeles to meet with Professor Fred Aminzadeh and initiate the “US-Indonesian Geothermal Educational Capacity Building” program.

Aminzadeh, a faculty member in the Viterbi School's Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and its Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, is the executive director of the USC Center for Geothermal Studies (CGS).

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 Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, who has himself made many technical contributions in the field. "The USC Center for Geothermal Studies is expected to make a significant impact on improving our understanding 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, says Aminzadeh, but “they need to increase their experts by more than a factor of five 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 expertise 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 Wayang Windu 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.”

“We are very excited,” said ITB's Syihab. “We are delighted to be working with the Viterbi School.”

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).
  • Build on the experience base of both ITB and USC on geothermal related education and R&D, with help from industry representatives to make such educational programs more relevant to the real life challenges and requirements of geothermal operators.

This USAID sponsored project is yet another example of the expansion of geothermal related programs at USC

Bandung 1
Uniting to train geothermal specialists (from left): Iraj Ershaghi (Viterbi), Darharta Dahrin (ITB), Fred Aminzadeh (Viterbi), Zuher Syihab (ITB).
and its Center for Geothermal Studies.

“Last year we received a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Department of Energy to work on mapping and modeling of fracture system in the Geysers area in Northern California's Sonoma County,” said Aminzadeh, who also serves as the managing director of the USC Energy Institute’s Global Energy Center. Other activities of CGS include its monthly web-based distinguished lecture series that can be accessed worldwide and its Annual Technical Workshop (ATW).