Rwandan’s visit Powerhouse Energy Campus’ Smart Village Microgrid Lab

In 2016, the World Bank Board approved 24, African Centers of Excellence (ACEs) for eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. Four of those, including the African Center for Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development (ACEESD) are based at the University of Rwanda.

L to R: Geoffrey and Aphrodis at the Smart Village Microgrid Lab. Photo by Shelby Condit.

A year ago the University of Rwanda invited the CSU Energy Institute to help create the new ACEESD. That partnership brought Aphrodis Nduwamungu, a research laboratory engineer, and Geoffrey Gasore, a post doctorate lecturer in electrical department from Rwanda to Fort Collins and CSU’s Powerhouse Energy Campus. Now, Nduwamungu and Gasore are nearing the end of their month-long visit in which they are learning from researchers and in-house experts about how to build, deploy, test and troubleshoot microgrid systems.

Microgrids are of great interest to Rwanda because only about 40 percent of the country is electrified.

“Microgrids can speed up electrification for rural areas, and are cheap to employ,” explained Gasore, adding that “the overall goal is to have full electrification by 2024. Microgrids can play a big role in acceleration to that goal.”

Both Nduwanungu and Gasore have expertise in running computer simulations of microgrids and knowledge of best practices as described in manuals, but neither had practical experience. “There are vast differences between what is on a computer and real life,” said CSU Smart Village Microgrid Lab Manager Jerry Dugan, adding that “one of the most valuable things we have done here is provide them with hands-on interactive experience.”

Duggan has been working closely with the pair in his lab and recounts how valuable it was for them to run a perfect by-the-book exercise and have it fail in a hands-on setting. They were able to learn how to troubleshoot and look for a slightly off-spec devices or bad devices, and get a feel for a real microgrid system.

The hope, Duggan says, is that the University of Rwanda will be able to recreate the exact same microgrid lab, with the same equipment and computer programming language (Python). Then, the two universities will be able to easily collaborate and exchange ideas, and work on joint projects together.

“We are sharing with them our knowledge, and our equipment and how to use it. But they will be able to look at that and use their Rwandan point of view to design microgrid systems that work for their country,” said Duggan.

That’s exactly what the African Center of Excellence aims to do through research, innovation and planning.

“The purpose of our research is to solve the problems faced by people living in the villages and our students will use the same equipment [from the Powerhouse] to do that,” explained Nduwamungu.