Interview with Cari Debra Covell student at Iceland School of Energy

Interview with Cari Debra Covell student at Iceland School of Energy Cari Debra Covell, Iceland School of Energy
Alexander Richter 15 Sep 2015

A short interview with Cari Covell a graduate student of the Iceland School of Energy, receipient of a GRC 2015 Graduate Scholarship and winner of the 1st Place of the 36th GRC Amateur Geothermal Photo Contest.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet Cari Debra Covell for a short interview.  A student with the Iceland School of Energy of Reykjavik University, she recently received a Geothermal Resources Council’s 2015 Graduate Scholarship and won the 1st Place of the 36th GRC Amateur Geothermal Photo Contest for her pictures of drill casings for new geothermal wells.

With a background in civil engineering, you decided to join the graduate program in sustainable energy engineering at Iceland School of Energy at the University of Reykjavik. Why did you decide to come to Iceland to do this program?

I actually came to Iceland about a year prior to starting my studies through The GREEN Program, which is a partner of the Iceland School of Energy. It’s a study abroad program focused on renewable energy. After meeting the ISE staff, industry professionals, and being inspired by Iceland’s impeccable knowledge and expertise in geothermal energy, I decided to apply for the program. The opportunities I foresaw at the time were endless, and I wanted to take advantage of them using my background. I think so far it’s worked out in my favor.

As part of the program you have focused on geothermal district heating and will present some of your work at the upcoming GRC Annual Meeting. So congratulations on getting a scholarship to attend the event. Can you describe a little what made you choose this particular topic for your research and thesis? 

When it came time to find an advisor and discuss a thesis topic, I wanted someone of a similar perspective on things as myself who could guide me in the direction of researching a unique topic that hasn’t really been done before. I wanted to be creative while showing technicality at the same time. Therefore, I wound up contacting one of my lecturers from the GREEN program, María Guðjónsdóttir (who is now finishing up her PhD and officially becoming a part of the faculty), as she is in the right research frame of mind and yet has the engineering experience too. Together, we started talking about doing feasibility studies, and the topic of stimulation in low temp areas sort of just came up. We then contacted my now other advisor, Sverrir Thórhallsson, since he is a drilling expert and knows almost everything there is to know about the subject after 30+ years of experience. I love that my thesis will not only include an engineering perspective, but also a more real-world economic take in order to potentially give recommendations and implement the concluding methods around the world.

There will be several companies attending the event, who are you looking forward to meet at the event? 

Well I’m very open to meeting anyone and everyone, simply because I love to learn in this type of environment! But I have my eye on a few places. Since I’m looking into PhD programs in the U.S. now, I would like to talk to representatives from the University of Nevada Reno, Stanford University, and the USC Center of Geothermal Studies. I’m also planning to speak with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), since one day I hope to have a post-doctoral position for the government in order to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology.

At Iceland School of Energy you are working on social media activities for the school. What is your take on how the geothermal energy industry compares in its activities on social media with other renewable energy technologies?

Welcome to the year 2015, where social media is more important now than ever before. I think the reason why geothermal in particular is not well represented is because it’s such a small, yet rather young industry (in terms of time), and relevant to specific areas of the world. Other renewable energy technologies could be implemented pretty much anywhere, but geothermal is the one that depends on the natural resources of a particular environment, so those areas are promoted on social media over others. As someone from the east coast of the United States, no one is really aware of geothermal energy and how it works, simply because there are no real examples of implementation in our area. It’s completely geographical.

What are maybe things you would like to see the geothermal sector do more in marketing and social media?

To go off of the last question, geothermal marketing and social media is through education, and the best way to do that is to show it off! Pictures and videos go a long way, and seeing how it’s done translates better too. If there’s anything I’ve learned through working on social media for the Iceland School of Energy, it’s to bring my camera everywhere and take as many pictures and videos as possible, because something that may seem routine for me in the field could be fascinating for someone else. Also, encouraging young people to get involved is essential to ensure the next generation is ready to take over and make it bigger and better. Being a woman in this industry should also be marketed as an empowering duty, with just as many opportunities to have a voice and be heard.

How can people get in touch with you to learn more about your research and maybe your studies at Reykjavik University?

The best way is to meet with me over a cup of coffee to chat! I have lots of stories J. Otherwise I can be reached via e-mail at, and am up for video chat sessions too!

You can also watch the “student’s perspective” video I made highlighting my time thus far in ISE.

The Iceland School of Energy is a unique development offering graduate education in sustainable energy: including hydro, geothermal and wind power. The school is part of Reykjavik University, a private university in Reykjavik, Iceland

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