Keep the lights on

Devices that are optimized for intermittent availability of electric power

$ 500
Top  Prize

“They have taken the light” is the familiar Nigerianese for there is a power outage. Light is visible and is therefore an easily perceptible indicator of the absence of electricity. There is no perceptible latency between the loss of electricity and its effect on illumination as in the case of refrigeration, and illumination is a highly productive use of electricity owing to the relatively high efficiency of turning electricity into light and the profound effect of a small unit of energy on darkness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that coupled with the need to run basic communication devices such as phones and radios, the use of electricity as a source of light is the most paramount domestic use of electricity in West Africa.

There is an ongoing trend of low-cost mini photovoltaic (PV) panels as well as new and more efficient battery technologies that can satisfy domestic illumination needs as well as the needs for powering basic communication devices for functional lengths of times. These low-cost PV panels, high efficiency storage battery and the primal use of electricity for illumination suggests the need for optimization studies for appropriate mixes of sources of electrical energy such as mini-PV panels, micro-power petrol generators and the public grid on the one hand and utilization for illumination and communication, refrigeration, cooking and other domestic needs with emphases on “Keeping The Lights On” on the other hand.

Optimization studies on fixed cost of PV cells and storage batteries as well as the running costs of petrol generators and public grid supply vis-à-vis amortization of hardware to determine the most appropriate mix of sources and uses of electricity need to be undertaken. The scope for balancing the slacks in the various domestic sources and uses of electricity present opportunities for lowering the cost of domestic energy consumption with emphasis on “Keeping The Lights On”.

Candidate are to:

1.    Under take the modelling of sources and uses of electricity to determine the most productive mixes

2.    Assemble some of the optimal mixes and undertake empirical test to validate the models

3.    Extrapolate cost of each of the mixes over “three to five”-year periods to determine the cost of electricity over time.

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