Pilot project in Belgaum: A smart renewable energy microgrid
FluxGen undertook a microgrid project in the remote village of Mendil in Belgaum, Karnataka. It is located in the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary area. Since it is a reserve forest area, the Government of India has not given permission for transmission lines to be set up, so the ideal solution for Mendel was a microgrid setup to generate and distribute electricity locally. There were individual solar systems that had been installed for the homes in the village, but they were no longer functional due to lack of maintenance. FluxGen has now installed a 2KW solar plant in the village, which provides enough power for lighting, mobile charging, and TV loads.
A smart meter is installed in each house. Specialised software is used to calculate the power consumption of each house. This way, it is easy to ensure that the power is distributed evenly between the houses in the village. Weather is also monitored, and the data is stored on a memory card and it is also made available for remote access. They used the sbRIO-9641 embedded device from National Instruments to process the data parallely, log data, and transfer the collected data to remote servers using wireless communication.
The solar power is stored in a battery so that it can be utilised at any time. This power in the battery needs to be monitored in real-time, with power capping for each house. The power capping limit can change depending on how much energy is actually stored in the battery. For example, consider a battery that is capable of storing ten KWh. For ten houses, the power cap would be one KWh each. However, on cloudy days, the solar radiation may decrease significantly. The power cap should get updated based on this information. sbRIO-9641 helps to monitor battery performance by graphically plotting information about the power level and charging/discharging states.
The role of IoT
Internet of Things (IoT) plays a big role in ensuring that the microgrid functions smoothly. The entire microgrid can be remotely monitored and controlled using a web application, and information about power cuts can be conveyed to smartphones using mobile applications. The data that is stored in the smart meters will also be very useful for electricity boards to analyse in the long run, by enabling them to understand trends in electricity usage. The data about the voltage, current and power is stored on the cloud, while the software that analyses all this data is locally managed.
A microgrid system is ideal for sustainable operations in remote locations, where engineers do not have easy access. It can revolutionise the process of supplying electricity to far-off locations in India.