Congratulations to two of our graduating students—Diana Wong and Marielle Magtibay—on winning first prize in the Humanitarian Initiatives Committee IEEE Student Competition at the 2013 Canadian Conference on Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The paper presented was based on their capstone design project, Design of a Hybrid Renewable Energy System for a Northern Ontario Community, and supervised by Dr. Jason Grove. The current energy systems in most off-grid communities consist of diesel generators; these can be both financially and environmentally unsustainable, and also give rise to humanitarian concerns related to increasing utility costs and load constraints. The students designed a hybrid energy system to meet the current and projected future demands of a selected model community.
Their project design incorporated run-of-the-river hydropower generator, a fuel cell with hydrogen storage, and two existing diesel generator units. The design achieves a renewable energy penetration of 54%—resulting in 2,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide emissions—at a levelized cost that is 41% lower than the baseline model. In common with many renewable energy projects for Canada’s off-grid communities, the projected capital costs are high and would represent a barrier to implementation; it is likely that the future viability of similar projects will rely on both the development of more cost-effective technologies and innovative policy mechanisms.