Feature of the Week: Pure Power to the People

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Feature of the Week: Pure Power to the People

Today, a staggering third of the world’s population has no access to modern energy services. Since 1979, Iceland’s leading experts in geothermal energy have worked on resolving that by teaching young professionals from developing countries how to best harness their geothermal resources. This is vastly improving people’s quality of life, not to mention its environmental benefits. Ásta Andrésdóttir visited the UNU-GTP, United Nations University Geothermal Training Program in Reykjavík.

Published in the 2010 summer issue of Iceland Review – IR 48.02. By Ásta Andrésdóttir, photos by Páll Stefánsson.

School is in session. Twenty-eight students from countries like Costa Rica, Mongolia, Rwanda and Yemen are sitting in their full-f ledged offices, having attended today’s lecture. They are the latest in the string of hundreds of young professionals who have been invited to attend this six-month program. Many of them are now leaders in the geothermal field in their home countries. This remarkable school at the National Energy Authority, located in Reykjavík’s warehouse-shopping district, was founded in 1979 to assist developing countries to build up teams of specialists in the field of geothermal exploration and development. It is an arm of the United Nations University, which aims to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare. While it only has five permanent employees, 40-50 specialists are involved with the program each year. Most of them come from the Iceland GeoSurvey and the University of Iceland. Also, specialists from engineering firms and energy companies participate in the program, supervising the students’ research projects and giving lectures.

The program, which begins in April and ends in October, consists of specialized courses in nine different fields related to geothermal research. Geothermal-related companies nominate their employees, which allows for direct collaboration with the professional field while avoiding political pressure. The Icelandic government subsidizes their fellowships. In addition to a BS degree, applicants must have worked in the geothermal sector for at least one year. Good knowledge of English, the school’s official language, is also a prerequisite. First the students attend introductory lectures about everything pertaining to research and operations. Then, they begin working on individual research projects, in the majority of cases using data from their home countries. If not, data is provided from Icelandic geothermal fields. The project reports are published in the UNU-GTP yearbook, which is sent to each student’s country.

You can read the remainder of this article in the 2010 summer issue of Iceland Review – IR 48.02. Four times a year the print edition of Iceland Review brings you a wealth of articles on all aspects of life in Iceland including Páll Stefánsson's latest images of the country's majestic landscape. Click here to subscribe and here to browse through a selection of pages from the current issue.