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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R030111/1
Title: Robust Extra Low Cost Nano-grids (RELCON)
Principal Investigator: McCulloch, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Clark, Dr D A Rogers, Dr DJ Nyamongo, Professor I K
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
African Power Storage Kenya Power Tropical Power Energy Group
Department: Engineering Science
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: GCRF (EPSRC)
Starts: 01 May 2018 Ends: 31 March 2022 Value (£): 1,276,906
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Sustainable Energy Networks
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Feb 2018 GCRF 3 - Energy Networks Call Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

RELCON is targeting Sustainable Development Goal 7- to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. At present the World Bank estimates there to be about 1.3 billion people without access to electricity. This goal is seen as an enabler to improving the plight of people as determined by the Millennium Development Indices. There is a clear correlation between per capita electrical energy consumption, energy access and the Human Development Index. ODA list countries are the front and centre target of this research. This proposal meets the challenge to provide good Tier 3 electricity provision for homes and Tier 4 levels of electricity for community productive services and will be commercially viable at a cost of $4 per month per household (typical low end spend for kerosene). Furthermore, it has been designed so as to be grid ready.

This ambitious challenge is met by delivering a downwards step-change in the costs of distribution infrastructure by recognising that PV is becoming much cheaper and that widespread decentralised storage enables a significant decrease in distribution cabling costs. The system comprises of a nano-hub, serving 15 to 25 dwellings, each with a separate touch-safe ultra low voltage line. By having smart, low cost power electronic converters at each end of the line, mitigates many of the issues of volt drop. Furthermore, the local storage provides additional power at peak time, enabling the end user to have access to power in excess of the line rating. The batteries also allow for reduced peak powers on the lines that reduce the net losses, as well as providing additional resiliency to the system. The nano-hub can also accept a grid connection, thus greatly reducing the costs of delivering power to the already connected end users.

RELCON has five work streams: 1) Understanding the needs of the community, 2) System design and operation, 3) Low cost, robust power converters 4) Protection systems and 5) In field prototype trial.

This project will develop the underlying technology, analysis tools and datasets to enable the robust design and operation of this novel network architecture that is fit for providing for the electricity needs of off-grid communities. It brings together exceptional expertise from three Universities, Oxford, Cardiff and the Co-operative University of Kenya, as well as three complimentary partner companies: Kenya Power (the main distribution and customer facing utility), African Power Storage (a UK based startup developing nano-hub) and Tropical Power (an implementation partner with an impeccable record). These partner companies already start to provide clear pathways to enabling significant impact.
Key Findings
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Date Materialised
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk