Arturo Alcaraz

Arturo Alcaraz is the father of geothermal energy

Geothermal Plant Philippines
By Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Arturo Alcaraz (1916-2001) was a Philippino volcanologist who specialized in geothermal energy development. Born in Manila, Alcaraz is best-known as the Philippines' "Father of Geothermal Energy Development" due to his contributions to studies about Philippine volcanology and the energy derived from volcanic sources. His main contribution was the study and establishment of geothermal power plants in the Philippines.

In the 1980s, the Philippines attained the second-highest geothermal generating capacity in the world, in great part due to Alcaraz's contributions.

Education

The young Alcaraz graduated at the top of his class from Baguio City High School in 1933. But there was no school of mining in the Philippines, so he entered the College of Engineering, University of the Philippines in Manila. A year later--when Mapua Institute of Technology, also in Manila, offered a degree in mining engineering--Alcaraz transferred there and received his Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Mapua in 1937.

After graduation, he received an offer from the Philippines Bureau of Mines as an aide in the geology division, which he accepted. A year after he began his job at the Bureau of Mines, he won a government scholarship to continue his education and training. He went to Madison Wisconsin, where he attended the University of Wisconsin and earned a Master of Science in Geology in 1941.

 

Alcaraz and Geothermal Energy

The Kahimyang Project notes that Alcaraz "pioneered in generating electricity by means of geothermal steam among areas proximate to volcanoes." The Project noted, "With a vast and extensive knowledge on volcanoes in the Philippines, Alcaraz explored the possibility of harnessing geothermal steam to produce energy.

He succeeded in 1967 when the country's first geothermal plant produced much-needed electricity, ushering the era of geothermal-based energy to power up homes and industries."

The Commission on Volcanology was officially created by the National Research Council in 1951, and Alcaraz was appointed Chief Volcanologist, a senior technical position he held until 1974. It was in this position that he and his colleagues were able to prove that energy could be generated by geothermal energy. The Kahimyang Project reported, "A steam from a one-inch hole drilled 400 feet to the ground powered a turbo-generator which lighted up a light bulb. It was a milestone in the Philippines' quest for energy self-sufficiency. Thus, Alcaraz carved his name in the global field of Geothermal Energy and Mining."

Awards

Alcaraz was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1955 for two semesters of study at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a Certificate in Volcanology. 

In 1979, Alcaraz won the Philippines' Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for International Understanding for "supplanting national jealousies that led to a confrontation, with increasingly effective cooperation and goodwill among the neighboring peoples of Southeast Asia." He also received the 1982 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service for "his scientific insight and selfless perseverance in guiding Filipinos to understand and use one of their greatest natural resources."

Other awards include Mapua Institute of Technology's Outstanding Alumnus in the Field of Science and Technology in Government Service in 1962; the Presidential Award of Merit for his work in volcanology and his initial work in geothermy 1968; and the Award for Science from the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science (PHILAAS) in 1971. He received both the Gregorio Y. Zara Memorial Award in Basic Science from PHILAAS and the Geologist of the Year Award from the Professional Regulatory Commission in 1980.