Industrial engineer majors Gregory Guzman, junior, and Saul Villarreal, senior, are focused on making the most of alternative energy for the least amount of “green.”
The Ingram School of Engineering and Lanner Group Inc. are working on a research project which focuses on alternative energy sources. The project aims to make the most effective use of energy in cities by minimizing the operation of power plants and placing alternative sources near customers.
Guzman and Villarreal are leading the project alongside mentor Jesus Jimenez, assistant professor in the Ingram School of Engineering.
The partnership included Texas State receiving a $300,000 grant to fund W.I.T.N.E.S.S. simulation software licenses. The software is a computer program where users can develop simulation models to estimate the performance of a restaurant or a business.
Jimenez said the software can be used to help companies determine the most efficient way to conduct business. The software can measure data such as employee work rates or the number of people being served at a restaurant to maximize profit. He said the software allows the user to study a year’s worth of data in only 10 minutes.
“We work with companies in the industry, military, organizations that want to basically study their systems,” Jimenez said.
Guzman and Villarreal are applying the same technology to energy usage. Jimenez said the students are studying how electricity is generated from small energy sources. He said the initiative is important because the method of how electricity is produced has changed.
“Typically what you encounter is a power plant very far away that produces electricity and sends it to the customers,” Jimenez said. “With these sources you can produce the electricity around the customers and minimize the use of these power plants.”
Guzman said it is a way to maximize efficiency of energy used in a city. Guzman and Villarreal began the project by developing a wind turbine and solar panel model with the W.I.T.N.E.S.S. software to demonstrate energy consumption in a small market like San Marcos. They developed mathematical models representing how wind speed affects energy use in the area.
“Green energy use is important right now,” Villarreal said.
Jimenez said the software makes the research possible because basic math and physics cannot accurately map the wind variables.
“Wind speed in this area is highly variable so these mathematical models cannot really capture accurately the behavior of wind speed, but simulation (through the software) can do that,” Jimenez said.
Guzman and Villarreal expect to develop a more specific model to predict the amount of energy used in six-hour increments so they can differentiate between day and nighttime usage.
Tongdan Jin, assistant professor in the Ingram School of Engineering, said the short-span usage help create a balanced formula to measure the wind speeds over long periods of time. Jimenez said he hopes integrating the software into the classroom will bring students with these skills into the workplace.
“I see it enabling companies, like an industrial park in the area, to configure an effective distributive energy system that is reliable,” Jimenez said.
The W.I.T.N.E.S.S. simulation modeling software is taught at the Ingram school of Engineering and the Center for High Performance Systems at Texas State. Jimenez said students from all majors can register to attend a two-day demonstration of the software.
“The addition of the software isn’t just to work with companies,” Jimenez said. “We have an educational mission to get undergrads experience.”
Jin said the software will enable students to take energy use theories and apply them to real world situations.