Towards an Updated Electronic Load Controller for Microhydro Systems in Rural Nepal

Chan, Johannes
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University of Guelph

Remote communities throughout Nepal’s steep Himalayan terrain are especially ideal for isolated microhydro systems. Rural electrification, however, has often translated solely into electrical lighting, and rarely provides a clean alternative to wood biomass ovens – estimated to be responsible for 7500 deaths/year in Nepal (WHO 2007). Electronic load controllers (ELCs), which are intended to improve the longevity of microhydro systems by diverting surplus power into a dump load to regulate voltage and frequency, have been documented as one of the most common microhydro components to fail. The remoteness of communities makes the ELC’s durability and weight very important. Distributed electronic load controller (DELC) slow-cookers proposed by Roodsari, Nowicki, Freere (2013) intend to address these issues. An ELC compatible with DELCs is developed in this thesis using a Simulink model and a bench-scale prototype. The model and prototype are evaluated within the framework of Nepal’s microhydro standards for voltage regulation, frequency regulation, and total harmonic distortion. Results are validated against those documented in Roodsari, Nowicki, and Freere (2013), and used to estimate the potential weight reduction of the powerhouse ELC as well as the feasibility of slow-cooking with dumped surplus power.

Microhydro, Electronic Load Controller, Nepal