ASHRAE at the Heart of Ontario’s Power System – IESO Tour

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A group of SEBT were recently given the opportunity to visit the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in Mississauga. The IESO is described as the heart of Ontario’s power system with the important mission of balancing the supply and demand for electricity in Ontario.

Kate and her colleague Paul, who generously took the time to meet with us, provided us with an informative presentation on IESO operations. IESO and OPA is going through a merger starting next year and this will likely bring on a number of changes. During the presentation, we were situated in a conference room overlooking the control room. At the end of the presentation, Paul called down to give the go-ahead on opening the curtain. Of course, all students were fascinated by what was displayed below.

The importance of IESO is emphasized when looking into the heart of the operation. In the control room there are system operators that go through months of extensive training in simulators before they take off the training wheels and go live. Each operator has ten monitors with constantly updating information. In addition to that, a wall of monitors supply any other information needed. They display weather conditions for predicting renewable energies, news channels that are used to forecast behavior and energy consumption, as well as constantly updating information on power generators in Ontario and adjacent provinces and states. There is a tremendous amount of live data on current demand and production of any large generator connected to the grid.

Former systems operator Paul’s refers to the control room as the air traffic center of electricity. He describes his work experience in the control room “like playing a big videogame” and encourages all interested students to apply for summer jobs with IESO. He mentions that if you have a sharp mind then it might be you in that control room one day.

We soon made our way to look at the HVAC equipment and part of the power supply. The IESO has an enormous backup battery system and diesel generators in the case of a power failure. This ensures that even in the most critical hour, IESO should still have a constant supply of electricity to help balance the power of Ontario.

The students left in awe of what they had seen and with new gained respect for the forces at work to keep our lights on. If you are interested in more opportunities like this one, then get involved or stay involved with the ASHRAE Humber College Student Branch.

Written by Emilia Lundh

EXCEL SEMINAR A SUCCESS

It may not be the flashiest or hippest software, but at some point you are almost certainly going to have to use Microsoft Excel. “Of course”, you say to yourself, “I know how to use Excel. We did that in grade three”. The problem is, while most of us can use Excel, not all of us know how to use it wisely. If you find yourself awash in ‘#REF!’ and ‘#DIV/0!’, maybe it’s time for a refresher.

Luckily, the eloquent Keith Davidge was happy to share his knowledge at our first Excel Seminar on October 21. Drawing on his workplace experience, Keith covered a wide variety of Excel topics that ASHRAE students should find useful.

One simple trick we learned was how to use ‘IF’ statements to get rid of annoying errors. When a cell uses another cell in a formula, this is called referencing. When a cell that is referenced is blank, the formula that references it can return an error. We can get around this problem by adding a logical test to our formula, for example =IF(K5<>””,D5/K5,””) . This tells Excel to perform the calculation ‘D5/K5′ only if there is a value in K5, and if not then to leave it blank.

Another frustrating source of errors and confusion can be the misuse of relative references. By default, cell and range references are relative. This means that when you copy, for example, the formula =SUM(A1:A3) into column B, it will change to become =SUM(B1:B3). This is sometimes very useful, but not always. Ways around this are to cut (ctrl+x) or insert rows instead of copying (ctrl+c). Another solution is to use absolute references instead, which look like this: =SUM($A$1:$A$3).

It’s one thing to sort through a messy spreadsheet you’ve created yourself, but trying to figure out someone else’s mess is a different battle. This, we learned, can be made a bit easier with the ‘trace precedents’ and ‘trace dependents’ options, found under the formulas tab. These show the relations between cells with a handy arrow.

Conditional formatting was another highlight of the seminar. Excel 2013 has a number of cool formatting options, like data bars and color scales, that are easy to incorporate into your worksheet. However, it is important to remember that while these formats are there to assist in visualizing data they shouldn’t hinder readability.

More seminars are planned for the future, so stay tuned. Our next event will be dealing with some important ASHRAE standards that you need to know, both now and later in your career.

Written by Cassandra Heide