Standardizing DC Microgrids for Rural and Remote Electricity Access Applications – An Urgent Challenge and A Multi-Level Technological and Application Opportunity

By Wayne Gutschow

Many areas in the world suffer from lack of electricity. India alone has 400 million people without power. The IEEE P2030.10 standard will address the need for energy resources like solar and wind to be in proper use, so as to provide power for remote and rural applications. Governments and other supporting agency are looking for standardized products and services to address these needs. This standard will help address this issue.

This standard titled “Standard for DC Microgrids for Rural and Remote Electricity Access Applications” covers the design, operations, and maintenance of a DC microgrid for rural or remote applications. The standard further provides requirements for providing low voltage DC and AC power to off-grid loads. Its purpose is to address the needs of the electrical power industry to provide safe and economic access to electricity in areas of developed and developing counties where centralized electric power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure does not exist.

Off-grid microgrid applications can provide power where infrastructure costs or other issues are prohibitive for a fully connected system. This standard provides the framework to allow for deployment of distributed generation, storage and use of electricity based on identified requirements and existing technology. Further, it has the goal of facilitating the use of clean renewable generation of electricity in these applications.

Collaborating with the IEEE in this effort is the EMerge Alliance, an open industry association including commercial, government and academic organizations developing standards leading to the rapid adoption of hybrid AC/DC microgrids in commercial and residential buildings. To help catalyze this new project, EMerge Alliance is providing its chairperson and its membership’s accumulated wealth of information and experience with LVDC.

To better coordinate the multiple requirements and deliverables in the IEEE P2030.10 working group (WG), several task groups have been formulated. A few of them are given as follows:

The Market Development Task Group , led by Panayiotis (Panos) Moutis, will attempt to answer multiple questions regarding existing DC microgrid installations and the markets (put in broader terms: socioeconomic environments) in which these were deployed and are used. A few of the topics that the group is going to survey are:

  • Why have DC microgrids been deployed in the first place? Where were they required? Why not connect to the grid? Why not prefer “home-scale” powering solutions instead?
  • What were the experiences from designing and deploying such systems? What were the available resources? What were the available products? What was the role of the engineer in the paradigm?
  • What is the effect of different environments (weather, geology, socioeconomical, etc) on the decision and conditions surrounding the deployment of DC microgrids?

The above points will determine a roadmap to wide integration under the 2030.10 Standard, in the sense that existing (if possible) and future installations, guidelines and equipment of DC microgrids may be designed, controlled and managed according to a Standard with retroactive characteristics. To describe this in simpler terms, all prior knowledge and applied practice will be collected for assessment and systemized at a level as high and as broad as possible. The WG may, thus, exploit the outcomes of our Task Group as a starting point for the development of the Standard.

The Use Cases Task Group, led by Paras Loomba, presents various uses cases scenarios and applications that are involved with DC Microgrids for remote and rural areas. The focus will be to identify and recommend key use cases that would be involved during the design, functioning and operations of a DC microgrid. The Key use cases will revolve around (i) DC microgrid design and operations, (ii) Monitoring and control, (iii) Applications, (iv) Payment collection and mechanism, (v) Grid Maintenance, and (vi) Modelling.

The Task group would like to define these various scenarios and recommend the best fit for the standard that makes the implementation of these microgrids not only technologically affordable, but also financially sustainable and viable for remote and rural areas.

The Stakeholder Identification and Communication Task Group, led by Sarah Majok, is fundamental to the development and adoption of the standard. It is an integral component of information collection, the development of findings, and results dissemination. Examples of benefits of stakeholder participation include:

  • For manufacturers or project developers, it gives them an opportunity to provide comments and feedback regarding practical applications.
  • For financiers, it provides information which enables them to feel comfortable with the bankability, reliability or quality of an asset.
  • For governments, it provides information which can potentially inform policies and regulations.
  • The objective of this task group is to enable meaningful involvement by identified stakeholders and other interested parties.

The Systems Architecture task group, led by Peter Michael, applies systems engineering principles to optimize the development of a technology standard to enable DC Microgrids for Rural and Remote Electricity Access. This optimization involves the technical and practical tradeoffs between these general areas (i) Safety, (ii) Leverage of existing equipment and standards, (iii) Cost effective System Lifecycle, (iii) Voltage, Current, and Power levels, (iv) Power delivery, (v) Communication including Cyber Security, and (vi) Reliability. The challenge is to define a long-term goal that is obtainable via a cost effective, technologically obtainable, and market acceptable solution.

The WG has already convened about a dozen times, while the mentioned task groups have had their own discussions in light of their works, data collected and preliminary outcomes. It has been evident that IEEE P2030.10 has been developing its thoughts and aspiration in a very crucial direction in the field of electrifying rural and remote areas in a context that is undoubtedly novel and repurposed at a whole different level. The group welcomes new members and all interested parties may contact the working group Chair Wayne Gutschow or the IEEE SA liaison Michael Kipness. Your contribution will shape a fundamental standard document of the first half of the 21 century.

This article was edited by Panos Moutis.

For a downloadable copy of the February 2018 eNewsletterwhich includes this article, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center



wayne gutschow

Wayne Gutschow, IEEE member, is an independent “integrated solutions” engineer providing electrical and mechanical design and manufacturing services to the renewable energy and distributed generation field. Having spent 18 years as both an employee and now service provider to Nextek Power Systems, a Detroit-based developer of commercial DC power platforms, Wayne has amassed a broad background in solar generation, power conversion, battery storage and control systems. Prior to this he was a principle in a startup company called Perfect Sense Inc., where for ten years he designed volatile organic compound sensors and controls for portable and stationary applications. In 2010, Wayne was contacted by IEEE’s Community Solutions Initiative (CSI) team with a request to help design, manufacture and deploy a stand-alone village solar charging system that would support up to 40 portable home lighting kits for off grid villages in Haiti. Wayne led a small team who between 2011 and 2012 delivered to Haiti fifteen trailer based 1450 watt solar charging stations and 600 custom built LED home lighting kits along with open source plans for other IEEE pilot projects to follow. Since 2012, IEEE Smart Village continues to use Wayne’s services in the design and prototyping of the Sunblazer line of community power systems. 

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