Alumnus helps rural clinics reduce the cost of solar power-Carnegie Mellon University Africa - Carnegie Mellon University

Alumnus helps rural clinics reduce the cost of solar power

Alumnus Diogene Niyigena helps rural clinics reduce the cost of solar power 

As part of CMU-R’s ongoing research into business and operational models for renewable energy microgrids in Africa, graduate Diogene traveled to Japan in October 2015, on the strength of work he completed with CMU-R Professor Taha Selim Ustun. Presenting at the MICROGEN conference on microgeneration and related technologies, Diogene’s research concerns  optimizing the number of services an of grid health centre can provide in terms of the energy usage of the clinic. 

In Africa, only 34% of clinics have any source of energy at all. Renewable energies and solar in particular, can be a solution to this. One of the main cost in using PV solar energy are the batteries required to store solar energy. Clinics in rural areas are cash strapped and so the problem is then how to minimize the size of the battery needed to run the clinic. This in turn leads to the question of how can we provide services in clinics without relying on batteries? 

The solution developed in CMU-R is elegant, matching information on solar radiation throughout the day with a method to schedule the equipment usage to match the PV’s ability to produce electricity. In this way the highest usage needs can be scheduled to coincide with the times of highest solar radiation. 

The Microgen conference has a worldwide focus with the aim of promoting renewable energies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the conference Diogene was exposed to advanced technologies such as Toyota's project of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle,  as well as hearing about demand side management systems and energy data analytics. Among the discussions on cutting edge technologies and analytics, Diogene found that most researchers had a low awareness of African context and of the extent of lack of access to reliable electricity on the continent. 

In a related paper, to be presented at a conference in Morocco in December 2015, Diogene will unveil the application he built as an implementation of the theoretical solar energy scheduling model presented in Japan.  This Android app can be used by medical professionals, who input their equipment requirements for a given day. The app then pulls information on solar radiation forecasts and load information for each equipment required to output a schedule of when to use each equipment to optimize on battery usage. 

Given the remote location of most off grid clinics, the app does not rely on Internet connectivity so a small local Wi-Fi solution is needed to communicate with app. With the model proven by the implementation of the app,  the next step is to deploy the entire system in a health centre,  and CMU-R will be looking to work with solar energy providers to do this. 

Diogene works as a software engineering for Pivot, a leading Rwandan software company. His start-up company Khenz, which provides e-ticketing services for long distance buses in the region, recently received seed funding from Spring Accelerator.


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MicroGen Conference 

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