UK Direct Current research to strengthen India’s power networks

Research led by our engineers at Bath is set to make the power networks of India more robust, sustainable and able to stand up to an increased demand for electricity from the country’s population.

India, along with many other countries around the world, faces an uncertain future over the next few decades as it moves to greater electricity use while at the same time looks to more intermittent low-carbon energy generation.

In recent times, India has suffered numerous serious blackouts, demonstrating that the country requires major innovations to cope with a system that is close to the limits of its power generation and network capacity.

Professor Furong Li,  from our Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, is leading the project titled 'High Energy And Power Density (HEAPD) Solutions to Large Energy Deficits'.

In this image of India at night the enormous power usage of the country can easily be seen. (NASA)

In this image of India at night the enormous power usage of the country can easily be seen. (NASA)

Professor Li said: “India provides the ideal case study for testing innovative solutions that can make power networks around the world more resilient. The outcomes from this project will provide foresights into the development of low-carbon smart grids in India and elsewhere.”

The project will explore the use of local Direct Current (DC) grids over Alternate Current (AC) electricity grids as a solution to meeting the UK and India’s rising demand in a sustainable way.

This research is built upon an ongoing collaboration between Professor Li and Professor Padhy, kick-started by the Indian Research Council DST under its Boyscast Fellowship in 2004. Professors Li and Padhy have since been working together over a series of projects, including 'Developing Network Charges' for Western Power Distribution and 'Benefit Assessment of Economic Charging' for the UK industry regulator Ofgem.

In addition, this research benefits from Dr Miles Redfern’s years of experience in the design of micro-grids, and Dr Ian Walker’s innovative tests to measure and influence public attitude towards new technical and commercial solutions and its acceptance of supply interruptions.

This project will build on work done in the last few years at the University of Bath, making the campus home to the UK's first DC power network. This work has led to a subsequent larger DC grid demonstration project across ten schools, one office and 30 homes in Bristol, and now to this research in India.

Professor Li said: “These demonstration projects are primarily focused on balancing energy supply and demand and energy security at the local community level. However, these demonstrations are currently supported by expensive energy storage solutions such as batteries, which make for a weak business case that limits the scale and speed of their uptake.

“This new research project will address this challenge. We will look at how DC networks and smart grids can be used in residential and commercial buildings in practical and economically viable ways both in the UK and in India, to make better use of local community renewable energy supplies especially when the central system is over-stretched or broken.”

The EPSRC bid preparation which secured this project for Bath was heavily supported by Gareth Buchanan from the Research Development and Support Office.

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