Title

Strategies for improved microgrid system selection for the electrification of rural areas

Date of Award

2015

Degree Name

M.S. in Renewable and Clean Energy

Department

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Graduate Renewable and Clean Energy Program

Advisor/Chair

Advisor: Jun-Ki Choi

Abstract

A microgrid is a power generation system intended to provide and distribute electricity to a finite population. Microgrids have become a popular source of energy in rural locations because in some cases they cost less than adding transmission lines to connect to a major grid, and because they can be scaled to meet the changing energy demand of the community. Although it is possible for a microgrid to be connected to a major power grid, this project focuses on isolated microgrids collecting DC power through solar panels and storing energy in batteries. The primary goal of this research is to develop a process to select a microgrid to help electrify rural communities based on non-technical features such as social impact. The primary features of a microgrid system are determined using a microgrid optimization software named HOMER from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Further analysis of the microgrid system is performed using a pairwise ranking tool that aids in the decision making process. Additional categories with weights are applied to the systems selected by HOMER. Application of the pairwise ranking tool and additional categories, which include non-technical features such as social impact, improve the selection of the final system. The results indicate that selecting a microgrid system based solely on technical components may not be sufficient for every location. In addition, site specific information on microgrids is not readily available. Therefore, this project includes the development of an open source website for information useful to microgrid system design and selection. The website can host site-specific information such as energy polices, annual energy consumption, and previously conducted work. The process described above was used to select a microgrid for Sourou in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Currently, Sourou is not connected to an electrical grid. However, excellent solar resources and nearby solar projects make it a good location for solar power. Use of the method developed here resulted in the selection of a microgrid with improved job creation, and demonstrated how the process can be used to select microgrids for other positive social and environmental impacts. Important information used in the selection process was added to the website. Currently, the site includes regional and local energy policies such as Excellence of the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) Renewable Energy Policy (EREP) and the Africa Renewable Energy and Access program (AFREA) which contain governing rules for West Africa. This organized source of information decreases the time and cost for microgrid system selection and design.

Keywords

Microgrids (Smart power grids), Small power production facilities Evaluation, Smart power grids Evaluation, Smart power grids Burkina Faso Sourou (Province), Rural electrification, Energy, Rural energy planning, Microgrids, Rural electrification, Multiple-criteria decision analysis

Rights Statement

Copyright 2015, author

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