A few decades ago the rural electrification market was caught in a Catch-22: those with the need (for clean affordable electricity) did not have the money to pay for it, those with the money don’t want to invest in the technology, and those with the technology did not have access to those who have the need.
Things have changed: the technology of distributed off-grid electricity generation has matured and has come down significantly in cost, funds have been set up that will finance smaller decentralized projects. But the fraction of the rural population without access to electricity still stands at 28% .
The missing link now is the one who brings it all together: project developers, EPC contractors, IPP’s … with enough stamina to bring these projects to life and deal with the various challenges of supplying electricity to the rural poor. XANT and one of our preferred partner/ product integrator, Sustainable Power Systems have combined their expertise in off-grid electricity generation to design the PowerTower, a rural electrification hub that addresses these challenges.
The PowerTower is offered in various modular sizes; the smallest unit can meet village power demands of up to 500 kWh/day. The DC architecture reduces the number of power conversion equipment and transformers and thus the complexity of the system.
A PowerTower, consisting of a XANT S-24 turbine, a 50kWp PV array and a battery bank, was compared with a customized system for a 300kWh/day village load using HOMER Pro. Installed-costs of 1$/W for PV, 1.75$/W for wind, 400$/kWh for batteries were assumed; fixed CAPEX for logistics (35k$), Civil & Electrical works (50k$), distribution system (150k$) and the grid-forming inverter (50k$) were also considered. In addition the customized system had an additional cost of engineering of 50k$.
When comparing the Levelized Cost of Electricity it is clear how the lower up-front cost of the PowerTower (by avoiding the customization engineering cost) translate in a lower electricity tariff over the complete 20-year lifetime of the project: up to 10% reduction in LCOE for a wide range of site conditions. The authors believe that the cost reduction will be more significant as standardization will also lead to lower operational costs as spare-parts stocks will be more cost efficient as will be training of local staff for O&M.
Figure 1: LCOE as function of wind and solar resources for the CUSTOMIZED system (left) vs. the PowerTower (right)
The PowerTower takes the sting out rural electrification projects and enables quick deployment at reduced projects risk. The cookie-cutter approach of the generation technology will strengthen the bankability of project as replication does not entail further technological risks.
The combined PV-Wind-Battery system uses the natural resources that are available everywhere and eliminates the need for project-specific infrastructure (and thus expensive engineering!) making this a truly one-size-fits-all product.
Assuming a minimal cost advantage of the standardized PowerTower over a customized system the PowerTower achieves a lower LCOE than the CUSTOMIZED system. Some tailoring to the site conditions can also easily be done by adjusting the battery size.
XANT is a manufacturer of midsize (50…500kW) turbines for the microgrid and off-grid markets. XANT turbines are designed with microgrid applications in mind and a with a special focus on remote areas and harsh operating conditions. They have Just Enough Essential Parts (JEEP!), fit in 40ft containers and can be erected without a crane. For deployment in typhoon-prone areas the turbines can be lowered to the ground, also facilitating the maintenance. XANT turbines have the capability of active power curtailment and can be equipped with integrated energy storage to allow for a high penetration rates.
The extreme simplicity, easy maintenance, silent operation and low cost of ownership make XANT turbines ideally suited for wind power on remote locations and close to the consumer.
World Bank, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) database