Humboldt State University

Schatz Energy Research Center

GridShare: Smoothing the Peaks to Reduce Brownouts on Mini-Grids

The Problem: Brownouts

The microhydroelectric power station produces ~35 kW for 90 households in Rukubji and surrounding villages.

Village scale renewable energy systems are capable of bringing electricity to thousands of the most remote locations of the world. While these systems are promising, due to their limited capacity many are prone to brownouts during peak hours of usage. During a brownout, the voltage drops, causing lights to dim, televisions to flicker and appliances to malfunction. With conventional technology, addressing this problem would require costly system expansions or energy storage schemes.

The GridShare Solution

GridShare takes an innovative approach to reducing brownouts, using a low cost device that communicates the state of the grid to its users and regulates usage before severe brownouts occur. This encourages users to distribute the use of large appliances more evenly throughout the day, allowing power-limited systems to provide reliable, long-term renewable electricity to these communities.

A GridShare and breaker installed in Rukubji.

Three-Prong Approach:

Indication

Each home has a GridShare device installed at the electrical service entrance and an LED indicator box installed in the kitchen. Residents receive educational materials at the time of installation.

The GridShare uses a digital microcontroller to monitor the availability of electricity on the grid and a household’s electricity usage. A device is installed at each home on the grid and communicates with its users through a LED display mounted within the house. This information helps users adjust larger loads to times of lower demand, allowing the grid to consistently power a base load such as lights, radios, television and mobile phone chargers.

Enforcement

The GridShare also monitors electrical draw of each home, limiting each household during times of low availability, even turning off electricity momentarily to households trying to exceed this limit.

Education

Perhaps the most important part of the three-prong approach, the educational component creates a vital foundation for users to understand electricity, why brownouts occur, and to develop strategies for load shifting. Information is tailored to the community and conveyed through community meetings, household visits, brochures and illustrated instruction sheets.

Gridshare Pages