Sustainable rural electrification in developing countries - A field study assessing changes of load curve characteristics in San Francisco Libre, Nicaragua

Examensarbete för masterexamen
Master Thesis
Industrial ecology (MPTSE), MSc
Schmidt, Sarah
Low population densities, low income and low electricity demand make rural electrification through grid extension a difficult and costly business. This study assesses if small-scale, decentralized electricity production from solar energy could constitute a sustainable energy supply option for rural areas. The aim is to gain understanding of how load curve characteristics for rural households develop over time in order to estimate if solar home systems could meet the demanded electricity over an extended period of time at a viable cost. A field study was carried out in Nicaragua, acquiring information from three communities, El Obraje, Madroñito and Villa Esperanza, with different electrification times. Data on the electricity use of the individual households in the communities were collected, together with qualitative information on local perceptions and expectations of electricity services. The quantitative data were organized into load curves, showing average electricity demand distribution over the course of the day. Load curve characteristics of the three communities were subsequently compared and prominent features were explained based on the use of the major household appliances. Costs for grid extension, including electricity generation, were compared to costs for solar home systems covering the necessary electricity demand. Load curves showed the same characteristic behavior in all three villages: fluctuating, relatively low demand during the day, a prominent peak from six to ten at night, and constant, relatively low demand during the night. The total amount of energy demanded increased with the electrification time. The increase could mainly be attributed to the use of less efficient light bulbs and higher abundance of fridges and fans in the villages with longer electrification times and not socio-economic development. The outcome of the cost comparison of grid extension and SHSs showed to be highly dependent on the distance from the community to the next grid connection point, on the energy demand per day and the PV system cost per WP. This dependence was illustrated in a break-even distance plot. In this study no major load curve characteristic changes over a 15-year time period were observed. This indicates that SHSs could constitute a sustainable rural electrification option for communities with load characteristics expected to be similar to those in El Obraje, and located at a similar distance to the closest grid connection point.
Energi , Energiteknik , Energy , Energy Engineering
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