My internship took place in Seville, Spain with Abengoa Solar New Technologies, S.A. Abengoa Solar is one of the world’s leading solar energy companies and is the first company in the world to have a commercially functioning solar tower. To give you an idea, there are 600+ mirrors, each with about 1,300 square feet of mirror surface area, and throughout the day they all reflect sunlight to the receiver of this tower about 377 feet above the ground. This creates very high temperatures, which are transferred to a heat transfer fluid and then converted to electricity. This single tower provides electricity for about 5,500 households.
Living in Seville was a great experience and an excellent opportunity to improve my language skills. The Andalusian accent (in southern Spain) is unlike any other accent of Spanish that I had ever heard. If you get to spend time in Andalusia, you’ll understand why. My coworkers said that once you understand “Andaluz” (the name of dialect), you can understand any Spanish speaker in the world.
I met many students from all around the world. Most students are from Europe and participating in a program known as ERASMUS. This program allows European students continue their degree studies, so I met many people with all kinds of interesting backgrounds and perspectives on life. Seville is a great place to be because I could go with my new friends to many places quickly and cheaply. One time we went to Lisbon, Portugal, only a 4-hour drive.
More specifically, my internship consisted of two principle projects. One was creating a program to automatically analyze heat-flux distributions at the surface of a receiver for a Sterling Dish. To do this, I would go to the power plant and measure results using a CCD camera (charged-coupled device). With these images, a computer program I built could analyze more than a million data points within a few seconds and produce an image of the heat distribution at this surface. The second part of my internship involved designing a new Sterling Dish with the specifics of the mirrors: their sizes, curvatures, and appropriate inclination angles to produce the best heat distribution at the receiver surface.
Perhaps one of the coolest experiences I had at the company was being invited to translate a document from Spanish to English for former vice-president Al Gore for a special visit he made to the power plant. I definitely recommend doing an internship abroad. Not only is it an opportunity that will give your resume that impressive international edge, but also it will be an experience that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. The friends you’ll make, the things you’ll learn and do, and the good and bad times that inevitably follow but make the experience well worth it.