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Durham Energy Institute

Research opportunities

The USHD model recognises the importance of undertaking basic, applied, operational and implementation research. The flexibility of the platform allows for the establishment of many different research interests. We are particularly interested in understanding how the USHD could be used to facilitate transdisciplinary research that involves stakeholders from the onset of the project. The diagram below highlights how, for example, a USHD facility may be able to facilitate health, educational and commercial services by providing low-cost access to energy. The Sun is partly responsible for creating environmental conditions for transmission of soil and water-borne parasites. Simultaneously the Sun provides energy for health centres to run diagnostic services. At the right scale, the energy from the sun combined with other renewable resources (e.g. waste) may be turned into a source of income at the site of deployment.

More generally, we can consider the USHD as an agent of change, and follow a theory of change framework to consider how inputs related to the provision of renewable technologies can lead to outputs, outcomes and impact. The diagram below illustrates how this system works in practice – with measurements made at each point to allow for longitudinal assessments of what impact is attributable to the USHD.

Research ideas within this theory of change could be implemented within communities served by the USHD, within the USHD facility itself, or within one of the technological domains associated with the USHD.

A simulation of a 35Kw USHD facility indicates the following equipment could be run during daylight areas in a typical tropical or sub-tropical location.

A simulation tool for the USHD has been developed that allows users to estimate the potential cost and carbon savings of running a facility with solar power either alone or with a diesel back up, compared to diesel power alone. For a facility requiring approximately 60Kw of power for its equipment and devices, the cumulative costs of running the system on diesel alone over 25 years at 0.02% inflation are as indicated below. The PV+diesel line is for a system that uses diesel power 10% of the time (e.g. to deal with power spikes). The calculations allow for annual maintenance of the panels and storage device, and recurrent purchase of diesel generators. In this model, a 60Kw system run for 12 hrs a day on solar power alone would save approximately 213 tons of Co2 per annum compared to a diesel only system.