Sustainable Development Goal target(s)
SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy)
|Project lead||Bartek Soltowski (Electronic & Electrical Engineering)|
|Open to year groups||2 and 3|
Please note: availability can vary between degrees. Please contact your advisor of studies and the project lead for more information.
|How to apply||
To apply for this project please complete our application form.
Due to the declining costs of solar modules and energy storage devices, off-grid renewable-based energy systems will be crucial in providing access to electricity in rural regions across the Global South with no access to the main grid. As it stands, off-grid DC microgrid systems with centralised generation and storage and low voltage DC distribution networks are generally reserved for the provision of basic electricity access (Tier 1-2), while larger AC minigrids are preferred to supply higher power customer loads (up to Tier 5).
The cost of installing an AC microgrid can be significant and often relies on subsidies to deploy such systems. The benefits of providing AC power are associated with its capabilities to power appliances widely available in the market. Furthermore, AC grids can be further integrated into the main power network when it arrives at a rural village. However, DC microgrids offer a low-cost solution to support widely available DC appliances such as basic lighting and phone charging, which enables rapid deployment in rural regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Other benefits of DC systems include their compatibility with DC solar arrays and batteries; while the reliability of DC systems can be higher than AC systems, with less maintenance overhead; and power losses are generally lower, primarily due to lack of the inverter stage.
The objective of the proposed project is to fully explore the potential for using smart-grid technology to evolve DC microgrids traditionally supporting basic electrical appliances (lighting and phone charging) into DC systems also capable of accommodating a wide range of high-power devices developed by the project partners – specifically designed for off-grid electrification. Proposed smart DC microgrids can therefore preserve the low cost, high reliability and efficiency benefits currently associated with DC grids, while accommodating the higher-powered devices generally associated with AC microgrids and required to service productive uses of energy.
The team will answer fundamental questions about benefits of DC microgrids in terms of deployment cost as well as support of productive use of electricity within rural communities in oppose to “traditional” approach based on installation of AC grids. Other aspects considered in the research will give understanding of long-term project sustainability of DC minigrids as well as their socio-economic impact on rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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