Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
On a separate note, we visited Albuquerque this weekend and I must say that if you are trying to get there on the weekend don't take the train; it leaves Santa Fe at 11:20am, mind this is the earliest train on a Saturday, and puts you in at Albuquerque at 1. Unfortunately, the last train from Albuquerque to Santa Fe leaves at 4:40pm leaving you with a very narrow window to do anything. My suggestion would be to plan a visit on a weekday instead when the train runs much more often.
The program "NetLogo" allows someone to create an agent-based model by using a graphical user interface to handle some of the complexities of making models.
We have been thinking of various ways that it might be possible to use NetLogo to model the electrical infrastructure of Santa Fe.
One of these idea's is to make it so that the existing electric grid is shown in the model, and then the user can place different types of renewable power plants or give different homes or business's solar panels on their roofs, and to then show how the grid is affected by those changes. By adding Solar power to one part of the grid, it could inadvertently cause the grid in that area to fail because the power might be to great for the power lines to handle.
In a very simple form (as seen in the screen shot below), I have made it so that it displays the current distribution of where Santa Fe gets its electricity through PNM (Coal/Nuclear plants).
The user can then add more power plants to the system to see how that effects the total ammount of power produced, and what the various percentages of energy sources are.
This is very basic right now, but in the near future I will try to include the impacts on consumer cost, CO2 emissions, and perhaps some other factors that might be interesting to know. I also have not figured out how to go about having the entire grid laid out based off of GIS-layers because I can display them, but not really interact with them very well yet.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Charming, quaint, and ornate are all adjectives one could bestow upon our residence in Santa Fe, but modernity is one quality it lacks. The house still features a refrigerator and dryer-washer combo from the late 80’s or early 90’s, old windows, and an insulation-scheme that serves it poorly in this elevated desert climate. There are two-pronged outlets aplenty, but finding a three-pronged outlet for high-power devices (XBOX, Andrew’s space heater of a laptop) requires an Easter-egg hunt.
Heat runs through the house like water through a sieve. Both exterior doors feature gaps through which sunlight can be seen and none of the windows shut with solidarity. We have a cute fireplace, but when it’s not containing a fire, it scavenges heat through convection. Like all the local buildings, our historically aesthetic abode is constructed entirely of adobe, which has low thermal resistivity. Adobe is slightly redeemed by its high specific heat capacity during the summer months (ECE’s, think capacitance), but sleeping next to a wall in the sub-freezing temperatures we’ve experienced here is like sleeping with half of your back resting over a pit of punji sticks.
The whole house is heated by a natural gas furnace, which is hard to criticize (for convention's sake), but one of the purposes of our project is to explore renewable alternatives. Would a pellet furnace be convenient enough? What about solar panels? Might as well do something with that antiquated roof.
The water heater is worthy of complaint, for it truly embodies a mentality of compromise. It performs adequately when one person is showering, but falters when both showers are being used. So, it compromises. Instead of relaxation, what the showers provide is merely lukewarm disappointment to two people with cold reminders to hurry up thrown in.
Of course, all the physical constraints to energy efficiency can be improved upon. The question is, “To whom would it be worthwhile to perform the necessary actions?”
Monday, March 22, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
In Albuquerque we successfully got all of our luggage, and then set out to figure out exactly how to get to Santa Fe. After talking with a nice lady at the information desk, we found out that we needed to take the bus to the train station, and then take the RailRunner train to Santa Fe.
When the bus arrived, the driver got out, and told us that we were going to need to wait for a while because he was feeling sick. This turned into an hour and a half wait, while his supervisor came and took him to the hospital, and then another driver showed up to drive us around. Fortunately, the train wasn't leaving until 3:35, so having to wait from about noon until 2pm to get to the train station wasn't an issue.
On the bus, we met some interesting people, whom we introduced ourselves to as students from WPI and learned a lot about Albuquerque from them. The bus fare was $1 for a single ride, and $2 for a day-pass, but we didn't need to ride it any more, so we just paid $1. We finally arrived at the train station, and the new bus driver told us that we could just go wait for the RailRunner at the station and pay for a ticket once we boarded.
We went up to where the RailRunner was going to load, and there was this crazy woman that kept yelling at us to get away and to go in the direction she pointed. Me and Joel ended up going back down to the main station, where I talked to some police officers to find out if we were waiting in the correct place for the RailRunner, because the woman had been telling us we were in the wrong place. I told him about the woman, and he just told us "Welcome to Albuquerque" and laughed.
We waited for the RailRunner, and had some more interactions with the crazy woman and some other people while we were up there. The train came, and for students to get from that station to the Santa Fe Depot one-way was only $3 (or $7 if you weren't a student).
After about an hour long train ride through some scenic settings we got had finally arrived in Santa Fe, very tired because of travelling and lack of sleep. We walked to our vacation home at 628 Don Felix Street (about 0.3 miles from the Santa Fe Depot), and moved into our rooms.
That concludes travelling to Santa Fe.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Personally, this project has begun somewhat inauspiciously. At Logan Airport, my ignorance of luggage rules penalized me with a $50 surcharge. Following that, my layover at Baltimore was extended by half an hour. Those two things I can tolerate, but the loss of my luggage when I arrived in Albuquerque was especially unnecessary after spending the whole day in stressful situations. I knew I should have followed suit when all other Santa Fe D10 students used American Airlines.
The first week of living in Santa Fe was not without obstacles to survival. The prominent sunshine on which solar power proposals are based has not been conducive to warm weather. A couple chilly naps later, and one's throat becomes sore and a veil of fatigue inhibits every physical and mental effort. Food is also a challenge. Whereas I could support myself on $40 a week in Worcester, I've spent over twice that in my first two days because of the local affinity for organic foods.
Beyond the "breaking-in" of living conditions, the scope of this project has been revealed to be something greater than what I ascertained from the other side of the country. Talking with the local authorities on pertinent issues has given us a better understanding of our project, but it has enlightened us of the obselete nature of expectations and first drafts. The lesson here is not to be prideful in original beliefs and to expect and mitigate the nervousness that comes when the professor picks apart your work.
In the time I have spent at the Complex, I believe that I have discovered the essence of the IQP. More than ever, I have noticed the disconnect between engineers and non-engineers. At Trader Joes, I spoke with a woman who showed in interest in our living conditions after observing the inordinate amount of groceries we would have to lug back to our Don Felix St. residence. I told her the gist of our project, although it was in terms that the initiated would understand. To the layman, "electrical infrastructure" has less meaning than "transformers and power lines". The sessions at the complex have been largely devoted to graphical presentations of findings. The importance of these sessions has been their emphasis on presenting data in a way that anyone can understand. It makes understanding engineering easier through macroscopic presentation of data.
The above links provide information on Boulder, Colorado's municipal utility as well as the Xcel Energy-owned smartgridcity, the world's first implementation of a smart grid.
Friday, March 12, 2010
laws passed that might help home owners to purchase solar panels