Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


First smart grid electricity at Rukubji

First smart grid electricity at Rukubji
First smart grid electricity at Rukubji

The Humboldt State University team with those of BPC and DoE who built the first smart grid at Rukubji

1 August, 2011 - Homes in Rukubji, Wangduephodrang have been installed with the smart grid, which will empower them to stabilise their own electricity grids and curb damaging voltage drop situation known as brownouts.

The smart grid is a low-cost, prototype system designed by a team from Humboldt State University and faculty advisors from Arcata, California. It won them a US $ 75,000 technology design award from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The team, together with Bhutan Power Corporation and Department of Energy officials, installed the smart grid over a period of six weeks in June and July this year. Rukubji has about 100 households who receive electricity from their 24-year old, 40kW micro-hydroelectric plant built by a Japanese government grant.

A crucial function of the GridShare is indicating the status of the grid, which is accomplished with an indicator installed in each kitchen. The indicator displays a green LED, when there is enough electricity available for high power appliances. A red LED indicates limited power and, if a rice cooker is used while the red LED is lit, the GridShare cuts off power until the rice cooker is unplugged.

Residents say the red and green LED lights are helpful indicators, empowering them to shift usage of high power devices to off peak times. They have attempted load shifting in the past with limited success due to lack of information, which the LED lights are now providing.

The GridShare program encourages electrical load shifting, using a three-pronged approach: education, indication, and enforcement. The education campaign focused on why Rukubji was experiencing brownouts and facilitated the village to work together to address these issues.

The GridShare devices indicate the state of grid to consumers and block use of large appliances during brownouts.

It enables Rukubji residents to restrict their use of high-powered electrical appliances, such as rice cookers and water boilers, to periods of low demand. This helps stem disruptive brownouts during peak hours of usage in the early morning and evening.

In the process of installing GridShare

It is part of a multi-year effort working with the village of Rukubji and surrounding communities, like Bumiloo, Sangdo, and Tsenpokto, to establish the pilot GridShare project. The team will continue to monitor the devices for at least next six months. They will evaluate their capacity to stabilise the electric system and assess residents' satisfaction.

In addition, the team led a student education program in classes four, five and six students of Rukubji School about electricity, brownouts and load shifting. They also held a community education program to brief more than 100 residents about the installations, to educate the village on the GridShare program and respond to questions and concerns.  

Chhejay Wangdi, manager of the Bhutan Power Corporation's (BPC) Electricity Service Division in Wangduephodrang, said, "Presently, we don't face many brownout problems, but we never know what could happen in the future. It will be good to have options for managing electric grids in the years ahead."

Chhejay Wangdi said the adaptive regulation of GridShare has more benefits compared with BPC's limited electric grids. "In Bumthang, before the grid arrived, during brownouts we had to cut power to entire parts of the village. With the smart grid devices, houses can keep their lights on," he said. "Both BPC and customers will be happy if they can keep their lights on all the time."

The project demonstrates the potential of smart grid technology at the village-scale. HSU students and faculty advisors say it holds the promise of improving renewable energy mini-grids in thousands of communities worldwide.

Meanwhile, Chhejay Wangdi said BPC intends to link nearby village of Bumiloo to the national grid, while the main village of Rukubji will remain connected to existing micro-hydroelectric system.

This will relieve Rukubji's currently overloaded system with national grid serving as backup. Rukubji will then have extremely reliable power with two sources of electricity.

Contributed by Chhimi Dorji

Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728


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