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A Highly Practical and Affordable Microgrid Design Project for Developing Rural Communities: Case Study in Ghana

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

ECCD Technical Session

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

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Paper Authors


Hossein Salehfar University of North Dakota

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Dr. Hossein Salehfar received his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and his Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees both in electrical engineering from the Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He was a research assistant with the Electric Power Institute at Texas A&M University during 1985-1990. He was an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Clarkson University in New York during 1990-1995. Since 1995 he has been with the Department of Electrical Engineering at University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, where he is now a full Professor. Dr. Salehfar served as the Interim Chair of the UND Department of Electrical Engineering from 2010 to 2012 and as the Director of Engineering Ph.D. Programs for several years. Dr. Salehfar worked as a consultant for the New York Power Pool in New York and electric utilities and coal industries in the State of North Dakota. Dr. Salehfar has had active and externally funded multidisciplinary research projects funded by various government and private organizations. He has worked on a number of projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Some of the projects that he has worked on include microgrids, alternative and renewable energy systems, fuel cell technologies, power electronics, electric drives and electric vehicles, wireless power transmission, neuro-fuzzy intelligent systems, smart grid and conventional electric power and energy systems, power systems reliability, engineering systems reliability and security, power systems production costing, energy and load management programs, and energy efficiency. He has supervised several Ph.D. and master’s level graduate students and has published his research work extensively in various national and international journals, conferences, and books. During the past several years, Dr. Salehfar has developed and taught numerous courses at undergraduate and graduate levels including various power systems courses, alternative and renewable energy systems, electric drives, power electronics, power and other engineering systems reliability performance and evaluation, engineering statistical data collection and analytics, electric circuits, senior design courses and projects, electromagnetics, control systems, signal processing, signals and systems, etc. Dr. Salehfar has served as an active reviewer of proposals and manuscripts for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the IEEE, various Power Electronics Conferences and several international journals, conferences, and publications. He is a professional member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and a senior member of the IEEE. For more details on Dr. Salehfar’s research work please visit

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Michael Klein University of North Dakota

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Michael Klein holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of North Dakota and Bachelors Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Dakota and Benedictine College, respectively. He is passionate about applying his engineering education to developing affordable, effective, and sustainable access to basic human needs in developing areas. His interests include renewable energy, microgrids, creative power generation and distribution, and hands-on humanitarian engineering. He is currently employed as a substation design engineer for Burns & McDonnell in their Minneapolis-St. Paul office.

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This paper describes details of a hands-on student-centered summer project in Africa. The paper first examines the difference between microgrids and centralized power networks and discusses the suitability of microgrids for providing electric power to rural communities in developing countries. Next, the advantages and disadvantages of employing AC and DC power in microgrids for developing regions are discussed with regards to expected loads, generation sources, transmission/distribution efficiency, stability and control, protection and safety, and reliability and maintenance, with the conclusion that DC microgrids are better suited for developing communities. A practical methodology for selecting optimal distribution conductor sizes is presented, and a novel DC home hookup module is discussed, which provides metering and 12V and 5V service to a home for a cost of about $30. The microgrid design principles developed in the first half of the paper are then applied to an actual case study of Lingbinsi, Ghana, an agricultural community consisting of 267 homes. A step-by-step design approach for the microgrid is presented, resulting in a microgrid design using about 13kW rated capacity of photovoltaic panels and about 40 kWh rated capacity of battery storage with a total lifetime cost of about $133,000. The microgrid supplies 15W of power to each home for five hours per day to provide basic lighting and charging needs and delivers power to a water tower pump that provides enough water for the entire village. The microgrid material, maintenance, and installation costs can be supported by household energy payments that are 17-47% less than current average lighting costs in the region, depending on the financing strategy, while also providing enough power for a water pump. This indicates that the microgrid is highly affordable to the community. The project and its outcomes can be adapted to serve as a practical senior design project and/or a case study in renewable energy systems courses.

Salehfar, H., & Klein, M. (2019, June), A Highly Practical and Affordable Microgrid Design Project for Developing Rural Communities: Case Study in Ghana Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31960

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