ABB partners IIT-Madras for research on micro grids

Swiss multinational corporation ABB has signed a memorandum of understanding with Indian Institute of Technology - Madras (IIT-M) for technical collaboration in the research and development of micro-grids as well as joint research and development in the field of rural electrification, utilisation of natural non-fossil resources, battery energy storage and their connection to loads and main grid.

The agreement also includes internship opportunities to post-graduate students of IITM for the next three years.

Micro grids in India are evolving rapidly and under the present scenario the numbers are expected to swell as thousands of Indian villages get electrified. Decentralised micro-grids are cost-effective and involve low maintenance cost, making them a viable option to power far flung villages.

A low-maintenance micro-grid has the potential to eliminate dependence on expensive diesel fuel and the grid.

IIT-M has been undertaking pioneering work over the last few years developing and demonstrating solar based energy-efficient DC homes.

ABB, a global power and automation major has a strong portfolio of products for the renewable energy integration, distribution and automation of interconnected renewable energy sources that form local micro-grids.

IIT-M and ABB will jointly work to design, build and supply equipment for up to two such micro-grids in rural areas. Along with ABB equipment, the micro-grid will enable homes to be fitted with energy efficient DC devices like LED bulbs, TV, cell phone charges and brushless DC motor-based fans, specially designed by IITM. The project will be managed by IITM till the transfer of the installations to the local distribution utility (DISCOM).

"This is a great opportunity to combine our expertise with bright young minds from this renowned institute to devise and deploy solutions tailored for India," said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. "Microgrids technology is an important part of our next level strategy and well poised to make the Indian government's vision of power to all a reality by providing access to energy and ensuing economic empowerment to the people."

At the end of last year, ABB set up India's first multi-source urban micro-grid in the heart of Delhi to power its flagship event, Automation and Power World.

"IIT is committed to implementing an affordable solution for supplying electric power to Indian homes, whether they are off-grid, or homes with several hours of power cuts. At the same time our solution helps reducing the home's monthly power bills even when there are no power-cuts, a must for most middle and lower-income homes.

Simultaneously IIT-M is committed to a vision of India moving completely to Electric Vehicles by 2030. Towards this it is ready to commit the best-in class technology. The research and development cooperation with ABB will help them get to these goals faster," said Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, director of IIT Madras.

As a precursor to this agreement, an interface between industry-academia and regulatory bodies was organised jointly by IIT-M and ABB last month to discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by micro-grids in India. Around 100 participants from utilities, industry and academia had engaged in deliberations.

ABB's Access to electricity initiative in India has already demonstrated significant impact in the country. It has brought solar power to 1,200 households in the Rajasthan desert and to over 100 villages in the world's largest delta region of Sunderbans.

The programme has led to increased productivity of weavers and tailors by 50 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, improved healthcare, education and reduced strife with wildlife in the villagers' search for firewood.

IIT-M has used its solar-DC technology to power 4,000 off-grid homes in Rajasthan during the last few months. These homes are located at places where vehicles cannot travel and material including solar-panels and batteries are transported on camels or tractors. Today these homes have lights and fans and cell-phone chargers.

ABB will also support research at IIT-M's Battery Engineering Center to improve the life and discharge cycles of Lead-Acid to Lithium-Ion batteries for the next five years. Immediate applications range from telecom tower backups to grid ancillary services and renewable integration.

In addition, the research has the scope of including storage solutions for electric vehicles (EVs), important in light of the recent push for EVs to act as virtual power plants to store surplus energy and support the grid in times of deficit. The government outlined this in the recently launched National Mission on Electric Mobility program, which targets six million elect