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Hybrid power systems

based on renewable energies:

a suitable and cost-competitive
solution for rural electrification
Source: Trama Tecno Ambiental S.L.

Hybrid power systems 

This brochure constitutes an informative instrument to raise awareness among
the international community, relevant stakeholders and decision makers, of the RURAL ELECTRIFICATION
existence of a compelling solution to provide a cost-competitive and environ-
mentally friendly electricity service to rural communities
Therefore, this is a tool to :
• Gain an immediate access to reliable electricity
at any time. A quick glance at the electrification world integrated designs within small electricity

• Avoid long waits for grid extension and permit map will show that rural areas are in great
need of affordable and reliable electricity to
distribution systems (mini-grids) and can
also be retrofitted in diesel based power
the connection if it comes.
achieve development. systems.
• Reduce dependency from oil price fluctuations.
• Improve health care and education in rural Likewise, an overview through the most
important literature on rural electrification
Hybrid systems can
provide a steady
will prove that renewable energies (RES) community-level
• Increase economic productivity and create local are one of the most suitable and environ- electricity service,
employment opportunities. mentally friendly solutions to provide elec- such as village

• Strengthen social cohesion by providing access tricity within rural areas. electrification,
offering also the
to electricity for ALL users. Autonomous decentralized (off grid) rural possibility to be
• Fight climate change and poverty. electrification based on the generation of upgraded through

• Allow for a better use of local natural resources.

renewable energy power on site through
the installation of stand alone power sys-
grid connection in the
future. Furthermore, due
tems in rural households, and the set up to their high levels of

THE “POWER” OF ELECTRICITY of electricity distribution mini-grids, fed by

RES or mixed, have been proven capable of
efficiency, reliability and long term
performance, these systems can also be
The best replacemet
for diesel fuel based
delivering high quality and reliable electric- used as an effective backup solution to
power systems
For a community to raise itself out of subsistence and into an upward spiral of increased ity for lighting, communication, water supply the public grid in case of blackouts or
prosperity, certain basic services must be available and affordable. These include drinkable and motive power, among others. weak grids, and for professional energy Diesel based power
water, health care, education, transportation and communication. Access to reliable elec- solutions, such as telecommunication sta- systems will, sooner or
tricity is a precondition for the provision of many of these services and an active catalyst What is a hybrid power system? tions or emergency rooms at hospitals. later, grow to be a barrier
for sustainable development. for rural areas due to the
Off grid renewable energy technologies sat-
operating costs (elevated
isfy energy demand directly and avoid the fuel and transport
The provision of electricity has a significant social impact. The improvement of communi-
need for long distribution infrastructures. prices), the high needs
cation and social activities, as well as health and educational services and facilities, clearly
A combination of different but complemen- of maintenance, their
boost living standards and, consequently, prevent urban migration, provide a stronger
tary energy generation systems based on acoustic and environmental
sense of community, reduce mortality and improve gender quality. Production Consumption
renewable energies or mixed (RES- with a polluted nature and the
backup of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)1/ geographical difficulties
Electricity access has also a substantial impact in terms of economic development by RES
diesel/gasoline genset), is known as a to deliver the fuel to
increasing productivity and economic growth, as well as local employment The possibility Loads
hybrid power system (“hybrid system”). Power remote areas. Retrofitting
of preserving specific products, having irrigation facilities and powered processing Battery electronics
hybrid power systems to
equipment, will increase the production capacity as well as the quantity and quality of
Hybrid systems capture the best features the existing diesel based
the product placed in the market. Back-up
of each energy resource and can provide Genset Hybrid plants will significantly
“grid-quality” electricity, with a power range System minimize delivery and
between 1 kilowatt (kW) to several hundred transport problems and
kilowatts. They can be developed as new will drastically reduce
maintenance and
emissions, representing
an advantageous and
more suitable solution
The use of LPG as a backup allows to considerably lower the emissions for rural areas
 of CO2, NOx, SOx and SPM (suspended particulate matters) Hybrid power systems 
Successful results have already been obtained with hybrid systems worldwide. Rural communities without HYBRID SYSTEMS
hope to be connected to the public grid (at least not in the medium term), lacking resources to keep up
with the fuel prices or with unused diesel infrastructures, have found on hybrid systems the most suitable,
environmentally friendly and cost competitive solution for power delivery

Photovoltaic/diesel hybrid system Photovoltaic/diesel hybrid system A typical hybrid system combines two or more energy sources, from renewable energy
Photovoltaic/diesel hybrid system
technologies, such as photovoltaic panels, wind or small hydro turbines; and from con-
Location:China Location: Tanzania Location: Algeria
ventional technologies, usually diesel or LPG gensets (though biomass fed gensets are
Date of Installation: 2006 Date of Installation: 2006 Date of Installation:1998-2000
also a feasible option, if locally available). In addition, it includes power electronics and
Performance: Performance: Performance:
electricity storage batteries.
Provides electricity to 55 Provides electricity to several Provides electricity to 12
households households, community services households and community
The hybrid system can be designed following different configurations to effectively use the
Source/Implementer: SolarWorld AG (school, clinic, public lighting), services (school, health centre)
locally available renewable energy sources and to serve ALL power appliances (requiring
small workshops, cabinetmaking, Source/Implementer: CDER
DC or AC electricity).
and technical equipment
Source/Implementer: CONERGY/
The technological configurations can be classified according to the voltage they are coupled
Schott Solar
with; this is, using DC, AC and mixed (DC and AC) bus lines (cf. next page).

Example of load profile: village electrification

Electricity demand Energy demand met by Energy from PV

battery / other RES / genset generator
Photovoltaic/wind//diesel hybrid

Location: China
Date of Installation: 2002 Photovoltaic/diesel hybrid system Hydro/PV/Diesel hybrid system
Performance: Location: Laos
Location: Ecuador
Provides electricity to 3 villages Date of installation : 2007
Date of Installation: 2006
composed of 500 households, Performance: 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23
community services (clinic, school, Provides electricity to
hour of day hour of day
Provides electricity to 20
postal office, TV transferring 98 households and community
households and community
station) and a tourist facility services Hybrid systems with a backup genset run with minimal fuel consumption because the
services (school, public lighting,
Source/ Implementer: Bergey Source/Implementer: Entec genset is brought on line only to assist in periods of high loads or low renewable power
health centre, community
meeting and dining halls) availability. This results in a large reduction in fuel consumption as compared to a genset
Source/Implementer: Trama only powered system.

 Hybrid power systems 

Photovoltaics Wind Hydro Genset
The most
1. Electricity generation coupled at DC bus line technological
All electricity generating components are connected to a DC bus line from which the
battery is charged. AC generating components need an AC/DC converter. The battery, AC/DC Converters and chargers Any combination
controlled and protected from over charge and discharge by a charge controller, then of renewable energy
supplies power to the DC loads in response to the demand. AC loads can be optionally technologies with an
Charge Controller
supplied by an inverter. optional back up with LPG,
gasoline or diesel genset
Hybrid system ( DC coupled) is possible
DC bus line
Source/Implementer: STECA (Greece) DC Loads

The way to determine
DC voltage the most appropriate
AC voltage technological solution for
hybrid systems implies
Battery Inverter AC Loads
always a feasibility study
based on gathering field
Photovoltaics Wind Hydro Genset data for each specific site
and on a life cycle cost
2. Electricity generation coupled at AC bus line analysis.

* ** * **
Technical, economic,
All electricity generating components are connected to an AC bus line. AC generating financial, and socio-
components may be directly connected to the AC bus line (**) or may need a AC/AC AC/AC Converters
cultural considerations
converter to enable stable coupling of the components (*). In both options, a bidirectional must all be included in
master inverter controls the energy supply for the AC loads and the battery charging. Inverters the decision process to
DC loads can be optionally supplied by the battery. ensure the appropriate
choice of technologies and
Hybrid system (AC coupled) AC bus line operational and ownership
AC Loads
Source/Implementer: SMA (China) scheme. Location,
Master Inverter resource evaluation and
Battery charger load analysis are among
the basic criteria to be
DC voltage

AC voltage
considered to design an
optimal power solution.
Battery DC Loads
Once the most appropriate
system configuration has
Photovoltaics Wind Hydro Genset been chosen, a carefully
3. Electricity generation coupled at AC/DC bus lines and responsible selection
of components should be
carried out considering:
DC and AC electricity generating components are connected at both sides of a master * **
quality (reliability), yield,
inverter, which controls the energy supply of the AC loads. DC loads can be optionally AC/AC Converter regular maintenance
supplied by the battery. AC/DC Converter and charger requirements, after sales
On the AC bus line, AC generating components may be directly connected to the AC bus line service availability, cost of
(**) or may need a AC/AC converter to enable stable coupling of the components (*). servicing, warranty, spare
Charge Controller parts availability and price
Hybrid system (AC/DC coupled)
Source/Implementer: ISOFOTON (Senegal) AC bus line

AC Loads
Master Inverter
Battery charger

DC bus line
DC voltage

AC voltage

Battery DC Loads
 Hybrid power systems 
efficiency and

OPTIMAL USE OF ELECTRICITY A combination of energy (on a life cycle basis)
efficiency measures with
The use of electricity should not stop in the cilitation of information and communication the use of renewable For a given community, the costs of different financing advantages, giving as a result low
delivery of power but lead also to sustainable technologies, play also a very important role energies will not only electricity supply alternatives will vary de- capital costs, though leaving the evidence
development and stimulate market growth. in the economic development of a rural com- reduce electricity pending on specific local conditions, such as of significant operating costs. Renewable
Therefore, the technological solution provided munity. Educated and healthy people will pos- consumption and load size and distribution, renewable resource energy systems seldom enjoy direct or in-
for a given community should permit the de- sess greater potential for income generation! peak demand, thereby availability, fuel price and transportation net- direct subsidies, because of their environ-
velopment of “productive uses” of electricity. increasing the electricity work. mental benefits.
Therefore, the use of electricity to extend the service, but also reduce
By definition, a “productive use” involves the total numbers of productive hours available the production of A combination of improved technology and Still, renewable energy technologies are al-
application of energy/electricity for the gen- (beyond daylight hours), to enable the access conventional energy and economies of scale has pushed down the ready the least cost electrification option in
eration of income or value. Usually, productive to information (to make business decisions), greenhouse emissions costs of renewable energy technologies. Un- rural areas, even without internalizing en-
from the combustion like most conventional energy sources, the vironmental costs. The initial high capital
uses of electricity are only linked to direct to increase life expectancy or to develop
of fossil fuels cost of producing electricity from renewable costs are offset by the low operation and
income generating activities (ex: motive power higher literacy rates, should also be con-
for agricultural, industrial and commercial sidered a productive use. Together with the energy sources will decrease significantly in maintenance costs, the on site production
uses) but the truth is that the productive uses possibility of establishing hotels, restaurants, the future, given the necessary conditions. (fuel delivery cost can exceed the whole-
of electricity are already present by the simple repair shops, retail stores or communication sale fuel price), as well as the inexistent or
fact of providing electricity. Access to elec- centers, the delivery of electricity will certainly However, despite the favorable trends of little fuel expense (which is the single larg-
tricity will automatically generate a surplus contribute to the sustainable development of renewable energy sources, they are still est cost on a life cycle basis), the increased
within the domestic economies (saving up rural communities. perceived as high cost options. The reasons reliability and the longer expected useful
money otherwise spent in expensive candles, can be found within the benefits enjoyed life of renewable energy technologies.
kerosene or disposable batteries) and will Hybrid systems allow for ALL produc- by the conventional energy systems such
also promote micro-enterprise development tive uses of electricity (domestic, public as favorable policy frameworks and public
(ex basket making, handcraft, sewing, etc) and income-generating uses), permitting the
The enhancement of education activities, the scaling up of productive applications and rural The uncertainty of oil based solutions
improvement of health services or the fa- development.
A critical factor of the oil based solutions is $ 100
$ 98,18
the development of the crude oil price and,
consequently the price of fuel on a national
Hybrid systems based on RES can meet every energy demand ! level. The drastic rises of crude oil and the

WTRG Economics © 2007 (479) 293-4081

continuing depletion of this resource are

$ / Barrel
ENERGY SERVICES APPLICATION BENEFITS leading to long-term constrains on the eco- $ 80
Lighting nomic development worldwide.
Household lighting
Public lighting + Improvement
 of health care
$ 70
Community lighting and education Hybrid systems based on RES are inde-
Communication Internet/Telephone + Facilitation of security/safety pendent from oil price fluctuations and in-

TV Broadcast/Video/ Cinema
and emergency assistance creases. Even if these systems may include $ 60
Radio-telephone communication capabilities
LPG/diesel genset as a backup, still renewable
Refrigeration Refrigeration of medicines + Reduction
 of marginalization
energy will supply, at least, between 60 and $ 50
Cold storage
Ice making + Increase
 of employment
90% of the energy, with gensets providing 11/01/2006 11/04/2007 03/07/2007 05/07/2007 07/06/2007 09/05/2007 11/02/2007
12/04/2006 02/05/2007 04/05/2007 06/06/2007 08/06/2007 10/04/2007

Water supply Drinking water + Enhancement

 of social as little as 10% of the energy. Nov.1, 2006 - Nov.23, 2007
Irrigation life/cohesion
Desalination + Empowerment
 of women
Better than candles, kerosene, disposable batteries and car batteries, which are costly, unreliable and
Motivepower /processing Drying and food preservation + Generation
 of added value harmful for the environment and human health Hybrid systems based on RES will improve quality of electricity service,
Sugar and silk production products displace harmful emissions (like paraffin poison), increase luminosity and quality of light (up to 200 times brighter than
Textile dyeing and weaving
Crop processing (ex. Coconut fibre) kerosene lamps), provide for income-enhancing opportunities (ex. keeping shops open or carrying out activities such as
+ Increase
 of productivity
basket weaving or sewing for a few extra- hours, charging cellular phones) and save time and effort involved in hauling
Health services Sterilization of medical equipment
Electric diagnosis and medical treatment equipment acid-filled, short-lived car batteries to battery charging stations every few weeks.

 Hybrid power systems 

The unsuitability of grid extension
The main key variables in determining the cost of grid ex-
tension -comprising installation of high or medium-voltage
high transmission losses are also deterring factors playing
against this solution.
best service at least cost
lines, substation(s) and a low-voltage distribution- are the
size of the load to be electrified, the distance of the load The electrification with hybrid systems based on RES pro- Reaching the non electrified rural population is currently not possible through the extension
from an existing transmission line, and the type of terrain vides in this case a cheaper and less polluting alternative. of the grid, since the connection is neither economically feasible, nor encouraged by the
to be crossed. Due to the lack of critical mass, the low po- The increased reliability of these systems, the insignifi- main actors. Further, the increases in oil prices and the unbearable impacts of this energy
tential electricity demand and the, usually, long distances cant power transmission losses, the potential consumer source on the users and on the environment, are slowly removing conventional energy
between the existing grid and the rural area, the costs involvement (through an adequate operation scheme) and solutions, such as fuel genset based systems, from the rural development agendas.
of electrifying small communities through grid extension the optimal use of indigenous resources, play in favor of
are very high and therefore, not economically viable. The this decentralized solution. Therefore, infrastructure investments in rural areas have to be approached with cost
lack of local technical and management personnel and the competitive, reliable and efficient tools in order to provide a sustainable access to
electricity and to stimulate development.
The cost effectiveness of hybrid systems
Renewable energy sources are currently one of the most, if not the only, suitable option
A number of studies and simulations have been carried out that show the comparative costs of renewable energy sys-
to supply electricity in fragmented areas or at certain distances from the grid. Indeed, re-
tems as well as their competitiveness with conventional energy options, including diesel based power systems and the
newables are already contributing to the realization of important economic, environmental
extension to the grid, as it is shown below:
and social objectives by the enhancement of security of energy supply, the reduction of
Economical comparison: diesel vs. hybrid systems (life cycle costs) greenhouse gases and other pollutants and by the creation of local employment which
leads to the improvement of general social welfare and living conditions.
Total cost (EUR) Total cost (EUR)
600.000 1.600.000
Hybrid systems have proved to be the best option to deliver “high quality” community
500.000 energy services to rural areas at the lowest economic cost, and with maximum social and
1.200.000 environmental benefits. Indeed, by choosing renewable energy, developing countries can
1.000.000 stabilize their CO2 emissions while increasing consumption through economic growth
300.000 800.000
This brochure presents a sustainable and powerful technological solution based on
200.000 renewable energies (RES) to increase access to modern electricity services in rural areas
40.000 and beyond.
Tanzania hybrid India / Hybrid
Tanzania / Diesel 20.000 India / Diesel
The technological configurations proposed in this brochure are field proven and have
0 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 already been successfully implemented worldwide. A careful design of the hybrid system
Years Years
to meet requirements of the community at stake, and a responsible choice of system
Location: Tanzania Location: India
Application: Village power supply Application: Village power supply components, together with the training to operate and maintain the system, are currently
System configuration PV/Diesel hybrid: 30kVA hybrid inverter; System configuration PV/wind Hybrid: 100kVA hybrid inverter; 40kWp offered by a number of system integrators and technology providers.
30kWp solar generator; 25kVA diesel generator 240kWh battery PV generator; 10kW wind generator; 276kWh battery
System configuration diesel: 25kVA diesel generator System configuration diesel: 100kVA diesel generator
But, achieving sustainable economic and widespread use of hybrid systems will only be
Economical comparision: grid extension vs. hybrid systems (investment costs) possible if local management schemes, effective policies, meaningful finance and inter-
Investment costs (EUR)
national cooperation with industrialized countries are put in place! Though the private
Investment costs
Grid extension costs (EUR)
are primarily distance dependent. sector’s role in rural electrification is growing somewhat, governments and the donor
If the site is further away, the investment becomes higher. 600.000 community are still very much needed to provide not only initial start-up financing but
PV Hybrid costs are related to the required generation capacity:
0 that depends on the required demand. Thus, for small the appropriate infrastructures and energy models, as well as a continuous engagement
demand, a small investment is needed, for large demand, a larger in some fashion.
0 investment is needed. The break even “distance” is therefore related
to the demand.
Public grid
30 kWp PV power supply
0 300.000
12 kWp PV power supply
Public grid 5 kWp PV power supply

0 30 kWp PV power supply

12 kWp PV power supply
200.000 3 kWp PV power supply
Let’s make it happen!
5 kWp PV power supply 100.000
0 3 kWp PV power supply
0 5 10 15 20 25
0 KM

0 10 Hybrid power systems 11

Photo Credits: Greenpeace, Energybau, Isofoton, Fortis Wind Energy, Windeco, TramaTecnoAmbiental, Steca, Solar 23, Conergy, Bergey, CDER, Studio Frosio, IT Power, MHLab Design ACG Brussels
Contact details
working group:
The Alliance for Rural Electrification
The Alliance of Rural Electrification (ARE) was founded in 2006 in response to the Consultancy
need to provide sustainable electricity to the developing world, and to facilitate the
 eijing Bergey Windpower
involvement of its members in the emerging rural energy markets.
Company, Ltd.
System integrator and
The greatest strength of ARE is its robust industry-based approach, coupled with
the ability to combine different renewable energy sources in order to provide more
efficient and reliable solutions for rural electrification. •C
 DER (Algeria)
R&D and System Designer
ARE´s main objectives are to:
I ncrease awareness of the potential of renewable energy in the fight against cli- •C
 onergy AG
mate change and poverty. Manufacturer and system
A ccelerate the deployment and use of renewable energy technologies within de-
veloping countries. •E
 uropean Biomass Industry
Generate financial resources for rural electrification. Association (Eubia)
Industry association
P romote and support the development of healthy decentralized energy markets.
ARE is developing a number of communication tools and materials to carry out these •E
 uropean LPG Association
Industry Association
objectives, including the creation of different Working Groups to assess the services
and technologies currently supplied to rural areas; to support the creation of suitable •E
 uropean Photovoltaic
financing instruments, adapted to these technologies and to push forward the off grid Industry Association (EPIA)
Industry association
markets for rural electrification.
 uropean Small Hydropower
Working Group: Technological Solutions Association (ESHA)
Industry Association
The Working Group on Technological So- training and transfer of technology.
lutions is composed by experts coming A Working Plan has been defined accord- •E
 uropean Wind Energy
from different renewable energy sec- ingly together with a set of deliverables Association (EWEA)
Industry association
tors that have agreed to work together to be produced by the Group.
in order to provide suitable technological •F
 raunhofer ISE
solutions for rural electrification already The first deliverable of this Working Group Research Institute
adapted to market needs. introduces the principal technological
 ortis Wind Energy
configurations for hybrid power systems Manufacturer
The first assignment of this Group was based on renewable energies as one of
to identify suitable technological configu- the most cost-competitive and suitable • I ED Innovation Energie
rations for hybrid power systems based solutions for rural electrification. Consultancy
on renewable energies, including O&M,
• Isofoton

• I T Power Ltd.
 olar23 GmbH
 chott Solar
 MA Technologie AG
 teca GmbH
 rama TecnoAmbiental S.L.
Consultant and System integrator
With the support off: • Windeco