Out West student blog

Reflecting on Conducting Virtual Analyses for Concrete Goals

Nathaniel poses inside of a giant redwood tree. After the recent wildfires, the image serves as a more potent reminder of why Nathaniel pursues work in energy. (photo credit: Nathaniel Ramos)

By Nathaniel Ramos '21

Hometown: Watsonville, CA
Major: Environmental Systems Engineering
Intern, Department of Water Resources

When I first learned that my internship would be completed remotely, I was saddened to think that I would not be able to visit the sites that my work would revolve around. My project for this summer at the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is to assess the viability of integrating solar power at one pumping plant in the Central Valley--Buena Vista Pumping Plant, 22 miles southwest of Bakersfield. While visiting the plant is not crucial to me completing my project, it would have given me a sense of the scale at which I was working. Plus, the solar plant that the DWR would pay a contractor to assemble would be on land surrounding the pumping plant. From well-detailed overhead maps, though, I’ve been able to get a sense for what this solar project may look like one day, at a scale which actually might have been difficult in-person. In this manner, my remote internship has allowed me to appreciate the specificity of this project, and the tools that I have at my disposal to complete this project without having to physically visit the pumping plant.

My project has taken place entirely on Excel, and my team has guided me in learning and completing various data analysis techniques and functions that I had little to no idea about before this internship. I had always thought I knew my way around a spreadsheet, but this project has given me the knowledge to navigate it with increased efficiency and purpose. To be more exact, this project has taken place on just one big spreadsheet. The exciting part of this project is that this spreadsheet and the techniques my team has honed will serve as a template for two other pumping plants directly downstream of the Buena Vista Pumping Plant, with all three plants a part of the State Water Project (SWP). Thus, I have learned how to use Excel to conduct analyses to better understand what size solar generator may benefit the DWR the most, from a technical and economic lens. This is invaluable knowledge for me, as I have not had experience working with solar before.

While I may not get to see the final recommendation my team submits to DWR management, I am striving to leave a robust foundation for the rest of the study to continue after I leave my internship, with the goal of increasing the DWR’s carbon-free energy portfolio. Since the SWP is the state of California’s largest single consumer of electricity, any bit of progress goes a long way in stepping up to the challenge of the current climate crisis.

An aerial shot of the location of Nathaniel's project.


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