Village Power – Back to HOMER’s Roots of Remote Hybrid Renewable Microgrids

The HOMER software is now in use throughout the world, for hybrid renewable power systems of all sizes. But HOMER’s roots at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory were in village power, and HOMER Energy has recently been involved with a few village power projects that reminded us that 1.5 billion people still live without electricity, and the recent price increases in diesel fuel have made the transition to renewables far more compelling for these small systems.

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It started in Myanmar, where HOMER Energy CEO Peter Lilienthal attended a tour of 15 villages, in a project sponsored by the World Bank. Energy solutions ranged from candlelight to small and economical solar home systems to entrepreneurs running generators and charging a fixed rate per light bulb per night. Columbia University, which organized the trip, considers Myanmar to be a prime candidate for significant sustainable, inclusive economic development.

Shortly after the Myanmar trip, Peter and I attended the International Conference on Renewable Energy and Climate Change held at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, where Peter was a keynote speaker. The Pacific region is experiencing a “double whammy” of increased diesel prices and rising sea levels. Speakers from throughout the region described island utilities and individual power projects.

We also held a HOMER training during the conference, with attendees from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Tahiti. An important outcome from the training was a decision to seek funding to develop a more scalable training program, so that HOMER can become a platform for microgrid development and understanding.

Finally, we took a brief 3-day break on the island of Nananu-i-ra, which has neither roads nor power, and Peter was thrilled to find our lodging successfully powered by a homemade hybrid renewable microgrid along with solar hot water. Peter’s passion for island and village energy was evident as he spent some of his vacation time helping the resort owner analyze his power system using HOMER. Again, the value of training and information was evident from this very successful interaction. This analysis pointed out the value of good controls, as it appeared that the small resort was using approximately 4 times more diesel fuel than was necessary. The Southwest Windpower turbine at the Safari Adventure Lodge was quite still during our visit, which we understand is a rare occurrence. We would love to return for more diving and windsurfing some day, hopefully with the wind blowing the next time!

 

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