India's electricity network faces an uncertain future over the next few decades.
Numerous serious blackouts have revealed a system close to the limits of its power generation and network capacity. And as electricity use increases, the country requires innovative solutions to cope.
One such solution could be the use of local direct current (DC) grids.
Everyday devices drive demand
Everyday electronic devices, such as mobile phones, computers and consumer electronics account for at least 30 per cent of our electricity demand. And most of these devices require DC power.
Currently, DC power is generated by renewable energy devices, converted to alternating current (AC) power to be delivered to homes, and then converted back into DC for individual devices. These conversions waste energy.
Localised DC grids could reduce demand by 40%, removing this DC to AC conversion and directly feeding homes with DC power generated by local renewables.
This electrical conversion saving has the potential to rise substantially as the use of electric vehicles and efficient DC-powered lighting becomes widespread.
DC grids make green energy more sustainable
Additionally, when backed up by local energy storage and renewable energy generation, local DC grids can manage power supply and storage, taking greater advantage of renewable energy generated at low-demand times - such as wind energy generated during the night.
The project builds on previous research at University of Bath, which developed the UK's first DC power network. This led to a subsequent larger DC grid demonstration project across ten schools, one office and 30 homes in Bristol.
While these demonstration projects were primarily focused on balancing energy supply and demand and energy security at the local community level, they are currently supported by expensive energy storage solutions such as batteries, which make for a flawed business case that limits the scale and speed of their uptake.
This new research project will address this challenge by looking at how DC networks and smart grids can be used in residential and commercial buildings in practical and economically viable ways, to make better use of renewable energy supplies in local communities - especially when the central system is over-stretched or broken.