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IDB to help El Salvador become regional training center for geothermal energy

An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) grant for approximately $2 million will help El Salvador establish a geothermal training center for Latin America and the Caribbean that will enable other countries to develop their capacities to efficiently exploit this renewable energy source. 

The region’s geothermal development potential is estimated at 6,000 megawatts. Of this, 43 percent is located in Central America, 39 percent in Mexico, 17 percent in the Andean region, and 1 percent in the Southern Cone. The Central American countries must improve their technical and scientific capacities to realize their potential. 

The program’s three specialized courses will be held at Universidad de El Salvador between 2013 and 2015. Each course will be taken by 30 geothermal experts. The operation will also finance 10 scholarships for Salvadoran participants and another 10 scholarships for participants from other countries. 

The project, which was approved by the IDB Board of Executive Directors, will provide the only theoretical and practical graduate-level training in geothermal energy available in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2010, Universidad de El Salvador, together with LaGeo and support from Italy, offered a specialized degree course on a pilot basis. The new program will include an evaluation of this pilot course. 

A Sustainable Regional Training Plan in Geothermal Energy will be prepared to examine future demand for training as well as academic and financial aspects. The plan will define curriculum and teaching methods needed to ensure that participants receive the best training available in the region. Studies will also be conducted to determine the demand for masters or doctoral-level training in geothermal energy. 

Training is an important aspect of geothermal development in El Salvador given the country’s high potential for tapping this source of energy. Two geothermal fields are currently being exploited, Ahuachapán and Berlíncon, with a combined installed capacity of 204 megawatts and a net annual 1,421 gigawatt/hours of generation. This represents 14 percent of national installed capacity and 25 percent of net generation capacity, with production projected for an additional 25-30 years. 

The Italian-Latin American Institute estimates El Salvador’s geothermal potential at an additional 440 megawatts and a capacity that could total 644 megawatts in the coming years. Geothermal energy is a natural resource independent of climate change, geopolitical factors, and fluctuations in currency exchange rates. 

The program is being carried out by the National Energy Board of El Salvador. Universidad de El Salvador, the program’s co-executor, will be responsible for administering the Geothermal Training Courses. The program will help to expand the capacity of both institutions in the development of sustainable training in geothermal energy in El Salvador. 

Of the program’s total cost of $2.9 million, approximately $1.4 million were provided by the Nordic Development Fund and $824,000 from the Fund for the Special Program on Sustainable Energy and Climate Change (SECCI-IDB). Counterpart financing for the program totals $770,000.

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