Out West student blog

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Trip to Yellowstone National Park for some distancing in nature.

By Wenxi Zhao '21
Hometown: Beijing, China
Major: Environmental Systems Engineering

Intern, California Department of Water Resources

Why did you want to do this internship?

I took a course just this spring at Stanford called Dams, Reservoirs, and Sustainability. It brought a new topic to my horizons: how should the dams face the challenge of climate change? And it really moved me to look into the broader context of how climate change slowly mutates the current energy industry and its future prospects. So when I saw the intern recruitment at DWR, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get a behind-the-curtain view of how a stakeholder, as both a huge power supplier and consumer, reacts to the revolution in the power market in California.

How does your role support the host organization’s mission?

Due to the penetration of renewable energy in the electricity market, the power price curve has dramatically changed over the years--power prices have dropped to almost zero when solar plants full capacity during the day. In order to maximize revenue and minimize cost, DWR wants to adapt the power generation plans of its dams according to the projected price curve. My job is running models on the historical generation data to find an optimized power generation plan that can both satisfy the downstream farming needs and maximize the revenue.

Describe at least one project you will be working on this summer.

I am working to update the power generation plan, a schedule that states when to release water, and how much to release, through the turbines of a major dam in California. 

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

By getting involved in the reshaping of the power curve, I got to understand the motivation and constraints that have to be taken into consideration when renewing the plan for a dam. And I'm trying to figure out a template procedure for similar projects to follow in order to find the optimized solution while satisfying all the restrictions.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Biking, Hiking, Yoga, Painting, Reading

Taking part in a remote meeting with the team at DWR.












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