The GridShare story begins with Karma P. Dorji, a graduate student in the Energy, Environment and Society program, whose thesis focused on micro-hydro electric mini-grids in his home country of Bhutan. He introduced HSU students to the prevalence of brownouts on mini-grids and to the concept of shifting the time of use of rice cookers to address this problem. Students consulted Dr. Chris Greacen, an expert in village scale micro hydroelectric, who proposed the design of a device that would indicate voltage level and limit electricity consumption during brownouts. In 2008, a team of students from the Renewable Energy Student Union (RESU), mentored by Dr. Arne Jacobson, decided to pursue the design of such a device and sought support from the U.S. EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition.
Even before winning the initial design grant of $10,000 from the P3 competition, RESU students spent hours outside of classes developing a prototype of the GridShare circuit. In the spring of 2010, RESU members presented their GridShare prototype in Washington, D.C. to compete against teams from universities across the nation for a second round of funding. In acknowledgement of the GridShare’s potential to improve mini-grids worldwide, RESU was awarded $75,000 to demonstrate this technology in a village in Bhutan.
In the summer of 2011, after a year of refining the GridShare design, the team installed eighty-nine GridShares in the village of Rukubji, Bhutan. As part of this first pilot project, the team is continuing to monitor the device’s ability to reduce brownouts and its impact on residents’ electricity experience.
With the promising success of the pilot project, the team is now interested in identifying other villages that suffer from brownouts and other groups developing new mini-grids who want to incorporate GridShares into their system design. Projects in the near future will serve to further demonstrate and refine the technology. If you are interested in installing GridShares on your grid system, please email the GridShare team.
Past and present HSU core participants in the GridShare project include: James Apple, Nathan Chase, Chhimi Dorji, Meg Harper, Joey Hiller, Kirstin Mielke, Kyle Palmer, Tom Quetchenbach, James Robinson, and Jenny Tracy. Contributions were also made by Jessica Arnold, Shilo Harley, Blair Kinser, Patricia Lai, Nathan Lohse, Kristen Radesky, Adam Schumaker, and Zak Stanko. Arne Jacobson, Peter Lehman, and Eileen Cashman have served as faculty participants in the effort.
Our partners at the Bhutan Power Corporation, including: Dasho Bharat Tamang (BPC MD), Kinley Dorji (former GM DCSD), J.D. Sharma (GM EDCD), Chhejay Wangdi (manager ESD Wangdue), Ngawang Norbu (former EDCD engineer), Nawaraj Chhetri (DCSD engineer), Kuenley Dorji (ESD Wangdue engineer), Kinley Tenzin (ESD Wangdue technician), Phuntsho (ESD Wangdue electrician), Sangay Phuentsho (ESD Wangdue electrician), Dorji Namgay (GIS technician);
Our partners at the Bhutan DOE: Karma P. Dorji, Chhimi Dorji and Ngawang Choeda;
Our local HSU and community partners and advisors: Rick Mayberry, Dr. Mark Baker, Dr. Wes Bliven, Dean Davenport, Burt Campton, Jerri Jones, Steve Karp, Carolyn Ortenberger, Allison Oakland, Kacie Flynn and Anthony Johnson;
And the villages of Rukubji, Bumiloo, Sangdo and Tsenpokto, including Phub Gyeltsen and Wangmo, our gracious hosts in Rukubji, as well as Kinley, Phub Dorji and all those who helped translate between English, Dzongkha and Rukubjikha.