From Practical Action: “Hasta la vista, energy poverty!”

Drew Corbyn at Practical Action has a nice post on the Vienna Energy Forum (VEF). Beyond the focus on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appearance at the event, here are the highlights;

“The UN [is] making 2012 the Year of Sustainable Energy, and VEF delegates discussed three new targets for the World to set its sights on.

  1. Universal Energy Access by 2030.
  2. Global electricity production from 30% renewable sources by 2030.
  3. Global energy intensity reduced by 40% by 2030.”

Might the Microformer play a role in the implementation of these plans?

“[T]here is still no agreed definition about what ‘energy access’ actually means.”

Is it enough to focus on electric grid connections in the home to determine that energy access has been achieved? As this post points out, access to electricity is not the only determinant of the attainment of energy access.

“Practical Action’s CEO Simon Trace and Policy Director Andrew Scott were panellists – championing a definition of energy access based on people’s energy needs in the home, for earning a living and using public services.”

“[T]he ‘speech of the conference’ [award] went to the driving force for energy access in the UN – Kandeh Yumkella.  Kandeh referred to his village in Sierra Leone when he said that access to energy is more than just meeting people’s basic needs for cooking, lighting or earning a living.  Access to energy is about gaining individual freedom.”

Let’s modify that slightly: Access to energy can enable the attainment of individual freedoms.

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The Microformer: 2011 IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Finalist!

The Microformer is now a finalist in the 2011 IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Competition!

From the IEEE Change the World finalist site: “The IEEE Presidents’ Change the World Competition recognizes and rewards students who identify a real-world problem and apply engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills to solve it. The contest offers students the perfect opportunity to have their ingenuity and enthusiasm for engineering and technology recognized by prestigious IEEE members around the globe.”

The competition is not over yet! Now the Presidents of IEEE in 2010, ’11, and ’12 (3 members) will be responsible for choosing the final prize winners. Stay tuned to get updates about the Microformer and this competition!

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The Microformer Project Expands to Chile

After the completion of the first Microformer demonstration project in Madison, WI, we wanted to find another outlet for demonstration. We found this outlet with our team’s contacts in Chile, through our team member Patricio. Patricio is a professor at the University of Chile (Faculty of Physics and Mathematics – Facultad de Ciencias Físicas y Matemáticas (FCFM)) in Santiago. Through Patricio’s many contacts, we were able to form a partnership with faculty and students. We wanted to form this partnership because of the resources of the FCFM could be combined with available outlets for Microformer transmission system construction in real-world situations. The FCFM faculty member’s provided some ideas for possible Microformer projects. These projects included two that we would begin with: 1) student independent study and 2) Microformer transmission line installation at existing field sites. We thought these projects were a perfect fit for the next steps in developing the Microformer concept.

The broad goal of this partnership between the Microformer team and FCFM is to further investigate the technical details behind Microformer operation and to demonstrate that Microformer systems work in field installations for a low installation cost, providing more efficient electricity transmission while also being reliable. We hope that the work completed here will build the Microformer system into the standard one used in rural electrification, one that uses medium voltage transmission at ~2kV and low-cost, right-sized transformers for household connection.

The next in a series of blog posts will detail the Microformer Project’s partnership and field work in Chile. The first of which will describe the planning and partnership with the FCFM (U. of Chile). Then, Microformer construction in Santiago, Chile will be detailed. After Microformer assembly, photos and descriptions of the microformer system installation in Huatacondo, Chile will be detailed. Finally, continuing work in Santiago and Huatacondo will round out this storyline.

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Microformer On Twitter

Just trying out our new twitter account with our WordPress website to see if everything is working correctly.

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The Microformer Huatacondo Project

The newest installation of Microformers was recently completed by a team of four engineers in Huatacondo, Chile led by Patricio. We’ll be documenting the project in stages over the next couple of days. Stay tuned for updates.

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Wired Magazine on Developing World Economies

Here is a great article that should get us thinking about additional ways to encourage the development of the economies of the developing world:

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Day 9 – Mounting the Microformers at the Field Station

With the transformers finished and filled with mineral oil for heat transfer protection, the transmission line at the field station could finally be finished. The transformers were placed in their desired locations – one on the post, safely off the ground, and the second, attached to the shed, also high off the ground. We ran the transmission wires through the appropriate conduit, sizing them properly, and affixing connectors. With the wires ready and the transformers mounted, we were able to make the final connections for the transmission line. See the photos below for a better view of what we did:
Photo 1. Microformer mounted to the shed (the step-down transformer)

Photo 2. Microformer mounted to the post by the 500W wind turbine (the step-up transformer)
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Day 8 – Assembling the Microformers for this First Demonstration Project

For our first demonstration project, two Microformers were needed, one for “stepping-up” to ~2kV, and one for “stepping-down” from 2kV to 120VAC (the typical, residential consumer voltage). The transformers used for these two Microformers were removed from discarded microwave ovens, so the transformers are being reused. If we had not removed and used these transformers, they would have ended up in the trash stream. Using these transformers, a steel paint can, nuts, bolts, PVC, and associated wires, we constructed two Microformers for use in this project. Here is a picture of us building one of the Microformers:
The second photo below shows one of the transformers we used for the project:

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Day 7 – Placing Posts for the Microformer and Controller


Sorry for the delay in posting. Tough time-constrained semester. But, work has continued at the first Microformer demonstration site. For this post, we recall the day we placed the posts in the ground for setting up the Microformers. We purchased 10 foot tall posts and set them in the ground, compacting dirt around them. At the top of the posts we would affix the Microformers, which will provide the transmission voltage of approximately 2kV. Here is a picture of the work.

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Field Demo Construction – Day 6

Day 6 – Field Demonstration Open House Day. Even though the project is not yet complete, we participated in the College of Agriculture’s Horticulture Day – a great opportunity to talk with the public about wind energy and new forms of low cost transmission lines!
Photo 1. Display stand for the Open House

Photo 2. Posters for the Microformer and Wind Turbine
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