Capstone Presentation: Assessing Biomass-Solar Hybrid Microgrids in the Democratic Republic of Congo through Farmer Surveys and Economic Modeling

Event Type: 
Tyler Fitch, Elissa Mueller and Calli VanderWilde
Friday, April 13, 2018 - 4:40pm to 5:05pm
Dana 1040

Modern energy services are key for meeting basic needs, fostering economic growth, advancing human development, and protecting our planet. Lack of access to modern electricity services compromises the health, education, and potential of millions of Congolese citizens (Sanyanga, 2013). Research broadly supports hybrid solar-biomass microgrid systems as viable, cost-effective options for expanding electricity access (Singh et al., 2016; Bhattacharjee and Dey, 2014). Many studies utilize detailed models, such as Hybrid Optimization of Multiple Energy Resources (HOMER), to perform feasibility assessments and system optimization (Sen and Bhattacharyya, 2014; Shahzad eet al., 2017; Montuori et al., 2014). However, in the DRC the cost and availability of biomass for electricity generation are not well-known, posing challenges for analysis. As models do not consider the local market price of biomass for fuel, and instead rely on generic assumptions, a gap persists between context-specific market price estimation and techno-economic modeling (Montouri et al., 2014; Shahzad et al., 2017; Sen and Bhattacharyya, 2014).

To address this knowledge gap we developed a survey tool to assess biomass cost and availability and then utilized the findings to make a more robust model. There is little work to date on farmer willingness-to-accept payment (WTA) for agricultural residues making this research novel in and of itself (Practical Action, 2009; He et a., 2016). This study demonstrates a novel framework for assessing the feasibility of a hybrid solar-biomass system in Northeast DRC by combining survey results estimating farmer WTA with techno-economic modeling. Survey results are directly integrated into HOMER modeling software to provide a more precise estimation of optimally configured hybrid-biomass microgrids - and therefore better understand the potential for symbiosis between agriculture and electricity production.

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