Bottom-up electrification introducing new smart grids architecture : concept based on feasibility studies conducted in Rwanda

Soltowski, Bartosz and Campos-Gaona, David and Strachan, Scott and Anaya-Lara, Olimpo (2019) Bottom-up electrification introducing new smart grids architecture : concept based on feasibility studies conducted in Rwanda. Energies, 12 (12). 2439. ISSN 1996-1073

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    Abstract

    Over the past eight years, off-grid systems, in the form of stand-alone solar home systems (SHSs), have proved the most popular and immediate solution for increasing energy access in rural areas across the Global South. Although deployed in significant numbers, issues remain with the cost, reliability, utilization, sustainability and scalability of these off-grid systems to provide higher-tiered energy access. Interconnection of existing stand-alone solar home systems (SHSs) can form a microgrid of interconnected prosumers (i.e., households owning SHS capable of producing and consuming power) and consumers (i.e., households without an SHS, and only capable of consuming power). This paper focuses on the role of a smart energy management (SEM) platform in the interconnection of off-grid systems and making bottom-up electrification scalable, and how it can improve the overall sustainability, efficiency and flexibility of off-grid technology. An interconnected SHS microgrid has the potential to unlock latent generation and storage capacity, and so effectively promote connected customers to higher tiers of energy access. This approach can therefore extend the range of products currently used by people located in the remote areas of developing countries to include higher-power devices such as refrigerators, TVs and potentially, electric cookers. This paper shows the results of field studies in the Northern Province of Rwanda within off-grid villages where people mainly rely on SHSs as a source of electricity. These field studies have informed further simulation-based studies that define the principal requirements for the operation of a smart energy management platform for the interconnection of SHSs to form a community microgrid.