Technology developed by UNSW Canberra researchers will soon provide off-grid electricity to a small, rural Indian community.

The system is expected to go online towards the end of October.

The community is currently connected to the grid; however, the electricity supply is unreliable. UNSW Canberra project lead Associate Professor Hemanshu Pota said the technology will have a major impact on the quality of life for the community.

“They will have a continuous supply of electricity,” A/Prof Pota said.

“This means that the children can study after dark, and women can rely on electricity pumps to supply water. It also means that women can use machines for the semi-skilled services they provide to earn extra income.”

A/Prof Pota said the fully flexible off-grid electricity supply uses renewable power and battery storage for 30 households.

“The technology is designed so that each consumer can also generate their own electricity, store it, and then trade it individually or as an aggregated entity,” he said.

“It is unique in the sense it is a complete partnership between the provider and consumers.

“The electricity usage for each consumer will be monitored using smart meters, the cooperative of the consumers will decide on the rates so that it covers the running costs and then builds a surplus to increase the capacity of the system in the future.”

It is hoped that program can be replicated within other rural communities across the country. 

The project received a Mission Innovation Grant, funded by the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology, bringing together an international team of researchers.

Partners include Indian universities the Malviya National Institute of Technology, the Indian Institute of Technology, as well as the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Our partners have contributed to the design of the protection system, communication system and power electronic systems,” A/Prof Pota said.

“They will conduct the actual experiment and maintain and operate the off-grid supply.”

A/Prof Pota is currently working with researchers from the University of Canberra and the Indian Institute of Management to develop financial mechanisms to replicate this type of off-grid electricity supply to other rural locations in India. This project was funded by the Australia-India Institute.

The team is also working with Indonesian partners to replicate this model for Indonesia.