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A heuristic method to design autonomous village electrification projects with renewable energies

Ranaboldo, Matteo, García-Villoria, Alberto, Ferrer-Martí, Laia, Pastor Moreno, Rafael
Energy 2014 v.73 pp. 96-109
algorithms, computer software, decision support systems, energy resources, linear programming, models, villages, wind
Systems relying on renewable energies demonstrated to be a reliable and sustainable option to electrify isolated communities autonomously. Hybrid systems that combine different energy resources and distribution microgrids are the most efficient design configurations. The design of these systems requires the use of decision support tools, while projects' promoters generally dispose of low design resources. This study presents a heuristic method to design off-grid electrification projects based on wind and solar energies considering micro-scale resource variations and a combination of independent generation points and microgrids. The method considers generation far from users and a pre-selection process is presented in order to screen the initial pool of potentially infinite generation points. Different algorithm versions are evaluated and performances are compared with existing tools: VIPOR, known software for microgrids design, and a recently developed mixed integer linear programming (MILP) model. The proposed heuristic performs better than VIPOR with mean improvements of around 6% and, for communities of more than 40 users, considerably enhances solutions obtained by the MILP model with a much lower computational time (1 min against 1 h). The method is a complete and simple tool that can efficiently support the design of stand-alone community electrification projects with renewable energies.