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Summary

In Spring 2014, the Department of Energy's Geothermal Technology Office will sponsor a challenge in which university student teams will complete a series of case studies detailing the exploration and development history of select geothermal resource areas. Professors at participating universities are encouraged to consult the provided geothermal web links to structure their course and support the project through their course assessments. Participating student groups will produce a case study detailing the exploration, development (where applicable), and geologic history of selected U.S. geothermal resource areas as a part of the final assessment of their coursework. As a part of this research, students will also evaluate the effectiveness of different exploration activities conducted at their chosen site(s), for both operating and non-developed geothermal areas. This collection of information will add to the data available from the 14 existing case studies currently published on OpenEI. The goal is for these case studies to be used in future analyses to compare and contrast exploration techniques that were helpful in identifying and delineating resources with similar conceptual models. These data could aid in developing future exploration plans in undiscovered areas in the U.S. Student groups producing the highest quality case studies will be awarded paid travel to present their work in a poster session at the 2014 GRC Annual Meeting in Portland Oregon, Sept 28th – Oct. 1st.

Challenge Goals

Through the 2014 Geothermal Case Study Challenge, we hope to engage the university community by incentivizing the creation of detailed case studies of geothermal exploration projects and streamline the process of providing public access to these reports online through NREL’s OpenEI platform. It is our aim to make the project as accessible as possible to a variety of academic disciplines, including (but not limited to): geology, geochemistry, geophysics, geotechnical engineering, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering. We also hope that the competitive nature of the project will create motivation for quality and excellence in the case studies selected for publication. Analysis of the data collected through the Geothermal Case Study Challenge will help to improve understanding of trends, successes, and failures in exploration. Publication of this information on OpenEI will aid in the development of future exploration plans targeting prospective or undiscovered geothermal resources in the U.S. and around the globe.

Public awareness of the nation’s developed and untapped geothermal resource potential is somewhat limited compared to other forms of renewable energy, and the number of universities in the U.S. with course offerings focused on geothermal energy is similarly small. By integrating the Geothermal Case Study Challenge into new and existing coursework, we hope to inspire more widespread development of a comprehensive curriculum that will introduce university students to the exploration, development, and utilization of geothermal resources. By sponsoring presentation of select case studies at the GRC Annual Meeting, we also hope that the challenge will serve as a platform for students to achieve national (and international) recognition for excellence in geothermal research.

For Students

Participating students will complete case studies of selected resource areas that have been the subject of present or past geothermal exploration efforts. Five students (or student groups) who produce the highest quality case studies will be provided with paid travel to the 2014 GRC Annual Meeting held in Portland, OR to present their case studies in a poster session. All students are also encouraged to submit papers in order to expand the poster session and increase their exposure at the GRC Annual Meeting. This event provides additional value in networking for students and encouragement for considering a career in geothermal energy. Participation in the Geothermal Case Study Challenge may also serve as an introduction for some undergraduate students into sound research practices and effective use of reference tools.

For Instructors

Instructor Documents

The 2014 Geothermal Case Study Challenge presents a unique opportunity for professors to supplement geothermal-focused coursework through collaboration with a major national laboratory. Professors at participating universities are encouraged to use the example short course modules linked below to plan their coursework and support the project through their class’ curriculum. Instructors are expected to guide students throughout the research process, provide initial reviews and commentary on reports, and submit a scoring sheet to NREL with an evaluation of the finalized reports. This feedback will assist in the selection of challenge winners and will serve as an initial quality control step prior to publication of the case studies on OpenEI.


Instructor Responsibilities

Professors are expected to work with and guide students throughout the research process. In some cases, the Geothermal Case Study Challenge may be the first college-level research project a student has worked on, and will require them to develop effective research and organizational habits. Many students will also be unfamiliar with different exploration techniques, and may require some assistance in clarifying how to document similar exploration activities that are known by multiple names. Professors should assist students in resolving these and other issues that may arise throughout the project to ensure that students have a positive learning and research experience.

During their research, students may encounter exploration activities that have been conducted at their case study area that are not included on OpenEI or in the EXPLORATION ACTIVITY TABLE. However, Geothermal exploration is an evolving field, and new techniques are being developed all the time. To accommodate for this, OpenEI allows exploration techniques to be added to the website. If a technique is not present on OpenEI and you believe it should be added, please to discuss adding the technique to the list.


Review & Comments

Professors will provide initial review and comments on reports and should help students to improve their work up to the submission deadline. Students are responsible for producing all content in the finalized case studies, so assistance should come purely in the form of feedback or through development of sound research skills. At the end of the spring 2013 semester, professors will submit a completed PROFESSOR SCORE SHEET, reviewing the final submissions for each case study produced by their students. Instructor grades and comments may be considered during final judging to assist in selecting the winners of the challenge.

NREL has provided a PowerPoint presentation that may be used to explain the Geothermal Case Study Challenge and introduce OpenEI. To print information from the CSC website, use the "Print PDF" button at the top of each page.


Help Guide

While we expect that course content will depend primarily on the instructor’s expertise and the school’s degree program requirements, we realize geothermal may be a new subject to some professors to teach. Professors should attempt to introduce students to topics that will broaden their understanding of geothermal exploration/utilization and help them complete their final projects. Topics that we recommend be introduced include:

  • Introduction to Geothermal Energy
  • Exploration Methods and Techniques
  • Types of Geothermal Systems
  • Geothermal Utilization and Energy Production

It may also be helpful to students for professors to integrate the information resources available on OpenEI into their coursework to encourage students to become more familiar with the website layout and content. Completed geothermal case studies on OpenEI may be presented to exemplify different types of geothermal regions, systems, and usage implementations. Students can also be directed to OpenEI’s Exploration Techniques page as they are introduced to different tools and strategies used in geothermal exploration, where they will find summaries and examples of analytical techniques that are commonly used to identify and evaluate geothermal resources.


Additional resources that can assist in planning and constructing a geothermal course curriculum:

Includes information on geothermal resource areas, exploration techniques, and extraction technologies.
The Geothermal Education Office (GEO) offers an introductory curriculum to geothermal energy appropriate for general audiences. A complete set of powerpoint slides is available on the website for download, and additional course materials (including lecture scripts) can be purchased on CD for $24. Professors wishing to use the GEO curriculum as a template for their courses should cover (at minimum) the material included in the Geology, Exploration & Drilling, Generation of Electricity, Use of Geothermal in the U.S., and Energy & the Environment sections of the presentation to ensure adequate coverage of topics relevant to the project.
Includes documents and videos that could be used as supplements in introducing geothermal energy.
Includes several documents and presentations that contain useful information on geothermal utilization and development in different global regions. Data may be used to supplement existing presentations/lectures.


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