August 19, 2012
I write this last blog post on my last day here in Germany. The past few weeks since I last updated have been incredibly bittersweet, as I’m ready to go back home to the US but also sad to leave the people, the city, and the country I have come to know and love.
In my last few weeks at work, I continued working on my LCA project for the HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current, just to remind you) transmission product. With all of the data collected and values such as electrical losses fully calculated, we began work on running the impact assessments. Using the SimaPro software, we input all of the data collected to fully model the product system. Several impact assessments were then run in SimaPro to calculate the environmental impact of the product and its lifecycle phases. This impact is measured using a metric called Global Warming Potential (GWP), which calculates the equivalent mass of CO2 emitted by the manufacturing, transportation, operation, etc of the product or lifecycle phase.
Based on the methods of a similar previous project, many impact assessments were run to calculate the GWP for each major lifecycle phase of the product, which includes manufacturing, operation, and end of life, as well as the overall GWP of the product. Further impact assessments of specific components were then run based on these results to determine the “hot spots,” or the major factors contributing to GWP. During the process, I recorded all of these findings using several graphs and figures to clearly illustrate the results.
Before finishing my internship, I completed almost all major impact assessments to determine the impact of the HVDC product, with only the scenario analyses left to run. Performing scenario analyses is one of the most important phases of the project as you have the chance to vary different components of the product model, such as changing materials, processes, etc. This allows you to assess how much certain changes would affect the environmental impact of the product, both positively and negatively, and thus allows you to determine possible improvements and suggestions to lower the impact of the product. Although I was not able to perform the scenario analyses myself, I used the knowledge that I had gained during the project to leave suggestions for possible worthwhile analyses to run for my boss and fellow working student to complete. Despite not being able to complete this phase of the project, I am so glad that during my time at Siemens, I had the chance to see an LCA study almost to completion, a truly valuable learning experience.
I am so incredibly thankful that I had this amazing opportunity. I have learned so much both about the work I have done and the culture here that will be so valuable for the rest of my life. Gaining such cultural awareness is truly important to understanding the world around you, but I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to learn relevant skills to my future career at the same time. Words cannot express how thankful I am to my boss for being such an attentive and caring mentor, as well as to everyone responsible for putting on the Cal Energy Corps program. Thank you so much everyone that was involved! I will forever be grateful for this life-changing experience.
July 27, 2012
During the last two weeks or so, the other working student in my office, Hyunjoo, and I have begun the initial phases of our new LCA project. We are working with a project manager in the Power Transmission division to gather information in order to determine the environmental impact of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission system. Such systems come in many different forms and are used to transmit large amounts of power over long distances. These systems run at high voltages and use direct current, as opposed to alternating current, to reduce power losses.
As this technology is becoming more popular, the transmission division decided that it would be beneficial to determine the carbon footprint of one specific type of HVDC system. And that’s where we, the Sustainability team, come in. Hyunjoo and I have been working hard to define the scope and boundary conditions of the project and gather all of the necessary information to begin running impact assessments in SimaPro. With the help of the project manager and past data collection from a similar project, we have almost successfully completed this work and are ready to begin running preliminary impact assessments to determine the future tests and comparisons that we should run. Hopefully, with a lot more hard work, we should be able to finish the project and document all of the results in time for the end of my internship.
View from the Rheinfels Castle on the Rhine (Rhein) River.
As before, I am still loving this beautiful country and the great city in which I’m living. This upcoming weekend, for the first weekend since I arrived, I will be staying in Erlangen to explore the city and the Nuremburg area a little more and I’m really excited to see what amazing things I’ve missed. Since my last post, I have also visited many more lovely and interesting places including a castle on the Rhine River, the cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf, Venice, Italy, and Zurich, Switzerland.
After an amazing almost 2 months, I only have about three weeks left here and I’m so excited for my last few weeks of adventures. But at the same time, I am also sad that my time here has been going by so quickly and is almost coming to an end. I feel like there’s still so much to do both at work and in exploring this wonderful country. Hopefully, I can accomplish as much as possible in my last few weeks! I’ll keep you posted!
July 5, 2012
Me at work discussing LCA projects with Hyunjoo, a working student, and Falko, my supervisor.
I can’t believe it has already been a whole month since I arrived in Germany and started working at Siemens! Time is really flying, but I’ve already learned so much. I am working in the Sustainability department here at the Energy Sector headquarters in Erlangen. My job mainly consists of performing Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for different Siemens energy products. The LCA process is primarily used to calculate the carbon footprint of a product over its whole life cycle by determining the environmental impact in each life cycle phase, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, operation and end of life. By using this analysis process during the design phase of a product, designers can learn just how sustainable the product really is and can find ways to change parts of the life cycle design to decrease the product’s total environmental impact. An LCA can also be used to assess other harmful impacts of a product or system such as health and safety effects so that these negative impacts can also be designed out.
Screenshot from SimaPro, displaying the tree diagram that is created for the life cycle processes of each product.
Because I did not have much experience with actually performing LCAs before I came here, I’ve spent much time learning about the details of the LCA process itself. My first few projects have mainly consisted of creating templates and guidelines for performing LCAs and documenting the results. These projects have been really useful both for me and for the company as in the process of creating specific guidelines for use within the company, I have been able to learn more about the process myself. The LCA guideline that I worked on will also be used to create an online process implementation so that anyone at Siemens who needs to perform an LCA can see a visual representation of the entire process and the specific details of each step. To perform the actual assessment of the environmental impact of a project, we use an LCA software called SimaPro. Within these first few weeks, I have also been taking the time to familiarize myself with the software using built in tutorials. SimaPro is a really cool and useful software and it has been really interesting to learn how it works, but I’m ready to start using it in a real application. Starting within the next week or so, we will begin working on a new LCA project for a power transmission system and, with the help of my boss, I will be heading the first few phases of the process, including the project setup, data collection, and preliminary impact assessments using SimaPro. As these projects can take up to three or four months total, I most likely won’t be here for its completion, but I’m excited to be able to apply my new skills to an actual project and gain some experience with performing a full scale life cycle assessment.
Aside from the interesting work I’ve been doing, I’ve also really enjoyed meeting so many great people within the company. My boss and the people that I work with are all so nice and helpful and everyone was very welcoming when I first started, which made the adjustment to living and working in a new country that much easier. As Siemens is such a huge multinational company, it took some time to figure out the internal structure, but I think I’m getting the hang of it and learning a lot about the company itself.
The Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church) and surrounding buildings in the Odeonplatz in Munich
The biggest adjustment so far though has definitely been the language. Coming here not knowing any German has proven to be slightly difficult, but everyone at Siemens and in Erlangen is really understanding and I’m definitely picking up a good amount of it pretty quickly, especially words for food and travel. I even bought myself a “Learn German in 30 days” book, so maybe I’ll come home being able to speak another language!
When I’m not working hard on the weekdays, I’m taking the opportunity of being in another country to travel as much as I can on the weekends. I’ve already had the chance to visit a few beautiful places including Munich, Berlin, Brussels, and Prague, and I’m so excited to be able to see so much more. What became really clear to me from the very first train ride from the airport to Erlangen is that Germany is an amazingly beautiful and green country. And the best part is that it’s easy to see how much they care about the environment here. So many solar panels and wind turbines everywhere! The perfect place for a renewable energy lover like me! I’m so thankful to have this amazing opportunity to work in and learn about such an amazing place. Stay tuned for more updates to come! Tschüss!