June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Energy Conversion and Conservation
26.1413.1 - 26.1413.13
Student Design of a Sustainable Microgrid for Rural KenyaAbstractA lack of regular access to electricity is a persistent and stifling challenge for nearly 600 millionpeople living in rural Sub-Saharan Africa. Elimination of this form of energy poverty requires asubstantial mobilization of capital—some US$300 billion by some estimates—and a workforceof engineers that are trained and prepared to design and implement technical solutions in thecontext of Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs).This paper describes a senior undergraduate electrical engineering capstone project in which thestudents gained first-hand experience designing solutions for LEDCs. In particular, the fourstudents designed and installed a 5 kW hybrid wind/solar isolated microgrid system that provideselectricity to families in rural Muhuru Bay, Kenya. The proposed paper describes the system indetail, and how the students learned about and navigated through complex technical and non-technical constraints and considerations, culminating in the successful in-country installation inAugust 2014.The microgrid provides electricity to approximately 65 families in Muhuru Bay, as well as theheadmaster of Kristy’s Cape Academy (KCA), the local primary school. The school andsurrounding area have no grid connection, which hampers the instructors and prevents thestudents from studying in the evening.In addition to supplying electricity to the headmaster’s house, the system supports a “communitycharging station” model of electricity distribution. In this model, families with students at KCArent Portable Battery Kits (PBKs) from the community charging station and bring them home atnight to power lights and recharge small devices such as cellular phones and radios. The systemalso uses basic telemetry: it uses the local cellular network to provide microgrid data to theuniversity for research. Specific technical details of the system will be provided in the paper.The students designed the system and documented its technical specifications. This includeddetermining the capacities of the solar panels, wind turbines and station batteries; developingcomponent specifications for controllers and converters; and designing the complete wiringdiagram.Students gained broad knowledge from the project. As described further in the paper, studentslearned how to design for sustainability in the context of LEDCs, considering technical,economic, social, environmental, and organization aspects of the project. Examples includeinterpreting and conforming to international and local electrical codes, obtaining buy-in from thelocal community and understanding the importance of revenue generation in prolonging projectlifespan.
Louie, H., & Szablya, S., & Miguel, A. (2015, June), Student Design of a Sustainable Microgrid for Rural Kenya Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24750
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