For six months during the spring of 2009, I worked for Abengoa Solar at their solar plant in the south of Spain. Abengoa Solar is one of the six divisions of Abengoa, a multinational company with employees in over 70 countries around the globe. They are a leader in renewable energy technologies, particularly solar. When completed, the plant just outside of Sevilla will consist of 250 MW of parabolic trough collectors, two commercial power towers (10 and 20 MW each), and another approximately 20 MW of stirling dishes and concentrating photovoltaic collectors. I worked in the Evaluación de Plantas department, a branch of Abengoa Solar New Technologies (R&D).
My primary responsibilities consisted of the measurement and assessment of the parabolic troughs and power towers. Using an infrared camera and three different spectrophotometers, I located temperature variations in different pieces of process equipment, determined the absorbance of receptor tubes and the reflectivity of heliostats, and was also involved in a number of tests of cleaning equipment. The results of these measurements were used to calculate energy losses and improve the technology. The internship with Abengoa Solar also helped me focus my studies. I am in the energy track of the environmental engineering program and plan to pursue a thesis related to solar desalination in the spring.
Sevilla is a fascinating and very culturally rich city. I was lucky to be able to experience first-hand la Semana Santa and la Feria de Abril in addition to flamenco performances, tapas, beaches, and in general the Spanish way of life. I made a great number of friends – primarily amongst my Spanish co-workers – with whom I not only improved my Spanish, but took up bachata dancing classes. We went out almost every weekend. In addition to la marcha in Sevilla, I had the opportunity to enjoy Carnaval in Cadiz, La Alhambra in Granada, a Spanish wedding, and a concert in Los Jardines del Real Alcazar in Sevilla. At the end of my internship I spent about a month traveling through Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Greece. I highly recommend pursuing an internship abroad. It will be an experience you will never forget.