Energy infrastructure in rural areas of developing countries is currently deployed on an ad-hoc basis via grid extension, public and private sector solar home system (SHS) service using photovoltaic (PV) panels, and community distributed generation systems, also called mini or micro grids. Universal access to energy is increasingly pursued as a policy objective via e.g. the U.N. Millennium Develop Goals (MDG), Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All), and U.S. Power Africa initiatives. Rational allocation of energy infrastructure for 1.6b people currently lacking access requires a screening process to determine the economic break-even distance and consumer connection density favoring topologically diverse energy technology approaches. Previous efforts have developed approaches to determine grid-connection break-even distances, but work on micro-grid and SHS break-even distance and density is limited.

The present work develops an open access modeling platform with the ability to simulate various configurations of PV, Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), and fueled generator backup systems with exhaust waste heat recovery. Battery and thermal storage options are examined, and typical meteorological year (TMY) data is combined with probabilistic and empirical load curve data to represent the appropriate physical dynamics. Power flow control strategy and infrastructure is optimized for a minimum tariff (USD/kWh) for cost recovery. Cost functions derived from manufacturers’ data enable performance and economic assessment for a case study micro grid in Lesotho.

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