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No More Blackouts?

Alternative Energy

Many rural communities are turning to microgrids, small-scale power systems that supply local energy, typically in the form of solar power, to localized consumers, such as individual households or small villages. Image: MIT News

Today, more than 1.3 billion people are living without regular access to power, including more than 300 million in India and 600 million in sub-Saharan Africa. In these and other developing countries, access to a main power grid, particularly in rural regions, is remote and often unreliable.

New framework guarantees stability of microgrids that supply local power in developing countries.

By Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

Increasingly, many rural and some urban communities are turning to microgrids as an alternative source of electricity. Microgrids are small-scale power systems that supply local energy, typically in the form of solar power, to localized consumers, such as individual households or small villages.

However, the smaller a power system, the more vulnerable it is to outages. Small disturbances, such as plugging in a certain appliance or one too many phone chargers, can cause a microgrid to destabilize and short out.

For this reason, engineers have typically designed microgrids in simple, centralized configurations with thick cables and large capacitors. This limits the amount of power that any appliance can draw from a network — a conservative measure that increases a microgrid’s reliability but comes with a significant cost.

Now engineers at MIT have developed a method for guaranteeing the stability of any microgrid that runs on direct current, or DC — an architecture that was originally proposed as part of the MIT Tata Center’s uLink project. The researchers found they can ensure a microgrid’s stability by installing capacitors, which are devices that even out spikes and dips in voltage, of a particular size, or capacitance.

The team calculated the minimum capacitance on a particular load that is required to maintain a microgrid’s stability, given the total load, or power a community consumes. Importantly, this calculation does not rely on a network’s particular configuration of transmission lines and power sources. This means that microgrid designers do not have to start from scratch in designing power systems for each new community.

Instead, the researchers say this microgrid design process can be performed once to develop, for instance, power system “kits”: sets of modular power sources, loads, and lines that can be produced in bulk. As long as the load units include capacitors of the appropriate size, the system is guaranteed to be stable, no matter how the individual components are connected.

The researchers say such a modular design may be easily reconfigured for changing needs, such as additional households joining a community’s existing microgrid.

“What we propose is this concept of ad hoc microgrids: microgrids that can be created without any preplanning and can operate without any oversight. You can take different components, interconnect them in any way that’s suitable for you, and it is guaranteed to work,” says Konstantin Turitsyn, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “In the end, it is a step toward lower-cost microgrids that can provide some guaranteed level of reliability and security.”

The team’s results appear online in the IEEE journal Control Systems Letters, with graduate student Kathleen Cavanagh and Julia Belk ’17.

Returning to normal operations

Cavanagh says the team’s work sought to meet one central challenge in microgrid design: “What if we don’t know the network in advance and don’t know which village a microgrid will be deployed to? Can we design components in such a way that, no matter how people interconnect them, they will still work?”

The researchers looked for ways to constrain the dimensions of a microgrid’s main components — transmission lines, power sources, and loads, or power-consuming elements — in a way that guarantees a system’s overall stability without depending on the particular layout of the network.

To do so, they looked to Brayton-Moser potential theory — a general mathematical theory developed in the 1960s that characterizes the dynamics of the flow of energy within a system comprising various physical and interconnected components, such as in nonlinear circuits.

“Here we applied this theory to systems whose main goal is transfer of power, rather than to perform any logical operations,” Turitsyn says.

The team applied the theory to a simple yet realistic representation of a microgrid. This enabled the researchers to look at the disturbances caused when there was a variation in the loading, such as when a cell phone was plugged into its charger or a fan was turned off. They showed that the worst-case configuration is a simple network comprising a source connected to a load. The identification of this simple configuration allowed them to remove any dependence on a specific network configuration or topology.

“This theory was useful to prove that, for high-enough capacitance, a microgrid’s voltage will not go to critically low levels, and the system will bounce back and continue normal operations,” Turitsyn says.

Blueprint for power

From their calculations, the team developed a framework that relates a microgrid’s overall power requirements, the length of its transmission lines, and its power demands, to the specific capacitor size required to keep the system stable.

“Ensuring that this simple network is stable guarantees that all other networks with the same line length or smaller are also stable,” Turitsyn says. “That was the key insight that allowed us to develop statements that don’t depend on the network configuration.”

“This means you don’t have to oversize your capacitors by a factor of 10, because we give explicit conditions where it would remain stable, even in worst-case scenarios,” Cavanagh says.

In the end, the team’s framework provides a cheaper, flexible blueprint for designing and adapting microgrids, for any community configuration. For instance, microgrid operators can use the framework to determine the size of a given capacitor that will stabilize a certain load. Inversely, a community that has been delivered hardware to set up a microgrid can use the group’s framework to determine the maximum length the transmission lines should be, as well as the type of appliances that the components can safely maintain.

“In some situations, for given voltage levels, we cannot guarantee stability with respect to a given load change, and maybe a consumer can decide it’s ok to use this big of a fan, but not a bigger one,” Turitsyn says. “So it could not only be about a capacitor, but also could constrain the maximal accepted amount of power that individuals can use.”

Going forward, the researchers hope to take a similar approach to AC, or alternating current, microgrids, which are mostly used in developed countries such as the United States.

“In the future we want to extend this work to AC microgrids, so that we don’t have situations like after Hurricane Maria, where in Puerto Rico now the expectation is that it will be several more months before power is completely restored,” Turitsyn says. “In these situations, the ability to deploy solar-based microgrids without a lot of preplanning, and with flexibility in connections, would be an important step forward.”

This research was sponsored by the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design.


54 Comments on "No More Blackouts?"

  1. baha on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 1:38 pm 

    System integration and development leading to plug and play installation…

  2. dave thompson on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 1:49 pm 

    This might work on a very small scale,in an individual family home with someone that understands the limitations running and monitoring the system.
    Beyond that not much else can be expected. Solar and wind set ups also need inverters, battery arrays, and all sorts of complicated equipment the average person needs to be well educated in, in order to keep the entire system up and running.
    Not to mention the overall cost. Still very expensive, do not be fooled.

  3. sunweb on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 2:04 pm 

    Dave – I have given up trying to explain this is at best only temporary and elitist. Between fear of the future, hopium, and a good lobbying it will go on until it can’t.

  4. Ghung on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 2:58 pm 

    Dave said; “Solar and wind set ups also need inverters, battery arrays, and all sorts of complicated equipment the average person needs to be well educated in, in order to keep the entire system up and running.”

    Compared to a hugely complex top-down power grid? Communities on microgrids can have trained members to manage these systems, just as power companies do. God forbid we have groups of people taking responsibility and control of their energy sources. Just because you consider the idea so daunting doesn’t mean people with the need can’t become more self-sufficient. Indeed, they are,, worldwide.

    I didn’t know jack shit about solar power and microgrids 20+ years ago. Now I’m considered a local expert who has helped others become proficient in meeting their own electrical needs; people who weren’t particularly technically savvy. This ain’t rocket science.. Funny those people are doing fine, and almost never need to call me for advice.

  5. Davy on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 3:11 pm 

    We need to go micro grids where we can. I don’t believe it is going to scale to make a difference becuase we are running out of time and resources to reinvent the proverbial “wheel”. Our civilization is late term and soon will be collapsing in on itself. Yet, until that day ideas like this could make a huge difference for many small communities. IMA, micro grids are ideal breeding grounds for demand management where intermittency and seasonal conditions can be adapted to in a conservation framework.

  6. Ghung on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 3:24 pm 

    Davy; “IMA, micro grids are ideal breeding grounds for demand management where intermittency and seasonal conditions can be adapted to in a conservation framework.”

    Major point here. As I’ve said before, being off grid, or part of a micro grid, forces folks to live within their means or the lights go out. Seems this concept is unthinkable for the entitled gridweenie masses. Dealing with an uncertain future means throttling consumption in many ways; forming new habits and not taking 21st century abundance/surplus for granted.

  7. Boat on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 4:53 pm 

    I am a futurist optimist. Large grids working with microgrids along with plenty of storage is unfolding as we comment. Wind, solar, batteries, are in their infancy but are growing fast. Yesterdays 20 year old computer was 1,200, today 200. Be patient doomers.

  8. makati1 on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 6:11 pm 

    Techie dreams…from one of the US’ best propaganda sources ..MIT.

  9. Davy on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 6:14 pm 

    Geeze, mad kat, MIT is a propaganda source. I would like to see you super secret special propaganda list. LMFAO…demantia man

  10. Boat on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 7:08 pm 

    makati1 on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 6:11 pm

    Techie dreams

    The US is poised to set an all time high in oil production set in 1970. In the meantime Canada’s imports are enough to take care enough of US needs. All those other imports are just for profit.

  11. makati1 on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 7:31 pm 

    Boat, your “oil production” will crash along with the economy soon. Then tell me your fairy tales about oil abundance in the US. It is already pumping at a loss. You will be looking at $20+/gal gas, IF you can buy it.

  12. Anonymouse1 on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 8:35 pm 

    Boatietard is severely mentally retarded mak. He has no idea what words like ‘oil production’ even mean, or what, or where ‘Canada’ is. He throws around words and concepts he picks up from surfing the web, or reads posts from frauds like cloggsphincter, and thinks they sound ‘cool’, and credible too I would imagine.

    Then he farts out whatever his scrambled neurons can come up with, here.

  13. makati1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 12:16 am 

    Signs of the dumbing down of America…

    “13 Baltimore High Schools Have Zero Students That Are Proficient In Math”

    “Not sursprisingly, only one Baltimore school replied to Fox 45 with a generic comment suggesting that improvement is difficult and “will take time.” That said, why do we suspect that ‘improvement’ will also take just a little more taxpayer money despite the fact that Baltimore already spends … $16,000 per year per student…which, mind you, is more than many private schools that deliver far better results.”

    $16,000 would pay for four years of college for 10 students here. I pay for two students college expenses and it is less than $400 each, per year. One studying business management and the other is taking engineering.

  14. makati1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 12:17 am 

    Anon, Yes, I noticed that. Maybe he is among the students in my above post. lol

  15. makati1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 12:28 am 

    In other news: “Mass Shootings, Mass Psychology, And Self-Defense”

    ” For those with a decent long-term memory, you may have noticed that the frequency of attacks and tragedies taking place today around the world is far above and beyond what occurred 10 years ago. So much so that many in the public have moved beyond the point of outrage and have now embraced complacency.”

    This is similar to another topic: “From Superpower to Incompetence”

    “Having grown up during the second half of the 20th century, I don’t recognize my country today. I experienced life in a competent country, and now I experience life in an incompetent country.”

    Amen to both observations. We do NOT live in the peaceful world of the 50s and 60s. Not even close. And, no, it is not because we have better communications now. We had TV and Radio that reported real facts, not propaganda. The US wasn’t insane then like today.

  16. Davy on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 5:13 am 

    mad kat we have more smart people than the p’s it is just we have a lot of poor uneducated people too. So what we still kick your ass with smart people. Why is my local university Missouri S&T full of Asian students? That is because smart people seek out smart people. How many people go to Manila to study. LMFAO

  17. Darrell Cloud on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:21 am 

    This is not difficult to understand. The welfare state provides the basics. This provision does not require any effort on the part of the recipient. In this environment, why would you spend your time learning tedious math equations?
    Public school is a daycare for welfare moms. For students public schools are a place for socialization.

    Students understand that their survival is not contingent on anything taught in public school. Their survival is contingent on working the hood.

  18. Hello on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:27 am 

    >>>>> 13 Baltimore High Schools Have Zero Students That Are Proficient In Math

    It’s politically not correct to admit that negros cannot be educated beyond maybe 2nd or 3rd grade primary school level. But once you take this step and admit. Then all of a sudden things become much clearer. And all the slavery excuses become moot.

  19. Hello on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:29 am 

    >>>>> mad kat we have more smart people than the p’s

    That’s definitely the case now, as the mak counts towards the IQ of the phillipines. Poor phillipines, not smart to begin with and now having to carry mak’s load, too.

  20. fmr-paultard on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:32 am 

    aswang is unable to undertand basic things such as electricity. a tiny country can’t do that and that’s understandable. but then duterte is separating from us. that’s dumb.
    giving up subic bay worth billions in exchange for free mosins. yeah that’s smart, NOT

  21. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 11:57 am 

    “but then duterte is separating from us. that’s dumb.”

    I think Duterte has a clear idea who the next overlord is going to be. Some would call it pragmatism. I would bet on the same horse, or dragon rather.

    “It’s politically not correct to admit that negros cannot be educated beyond maybe 2nd or 3rd grade primary school level. But once you take this step and admit. Then all of a sudden things become much clearer. And all the slavery excuses become moot.”

    But somehow you are placing your bets on America anyway, right Hello? Now where were you edumacated… in Baltimore? lol

  22. peakyeast on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 12:26 pm 


    What John Oliver explains is that white people seems to have the money and the power positions and abuse both to ruin the chances for others to have good schools and a good education and a good self-esteem and so on…

    The position “That negoes cannot be educated above 2nd-3rd level” is preposterous and is highly likely to come from someone projecting their personal qualities onto others.

  23. dave thompson on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:09 pm 

    This conversation certainly devolved to the point of complete nonsense. Yes sadly SUNWEB you are once again proved correct, is anyone listening?

  24. Apneaman on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:19 pm 

    clog look

    ‘Only 17 black female professors in UK universities’

    Report also finds that 92.4 per cent of all professors are white, while just 0.49 per cent are black

    clog you know what this means? No not that. It means those 17 “negro” women are more accomplished and intelligent than you are or could ever have been even if your parents spent $1,000,000 a year on world class tutors for you.

    They are simply intellectually superior. Not your fault you are average at best.

    It is true that part of intelligence is genetic, but not on the group level. On the individual and familial. You either have it or you don’t. You don’t and me and them sexy smart black ladies do.

    It’s doubly tough on you since your mom was carrying you in her womb while the Nazi’s were starving out your country. A high percentage of children who are robbed of proper nutrition while in their mothers womb, even for as little as a week, tend to have defects of some sort that they must carry their entire lives.

    With you the defects are in your gray matter between you ears – Thanks Nazis!.

    The irony is that if the Nazi won you would have been euthanized as a defective. Instead we saved you and tolerate you.

  25. MASTERMIND on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:22 pm 

    Madkat: More fake news..Paul Craig Roberts is a demented old hag..Just look at his mug on his website? Nuff said…And the alt market is not a credible site either..Jesus you are so uneducated it’s astonishing….You will believe anything you find online.

  26. fmr-paultard on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:37 pm 

    PCR is a stupid hag. Not sure why he isn’t in moscow hanging out with Snowden? PCR isn’t even supertard so Cambridge Fiving him is not a gain and not a loss for us

  27. fmr-paultard on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:39 pm 

    don’t mess with superhag. he thinks he’s a stonebonic merging himself with stones like the borg

  28. Apneaman on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:43 pm 

    Hello, you ain’t nothing but a below average intelligence, unaccomplished white Nigger.

    All your comments are boring, lack insight and are repetitive. Mostly just repeating that shit daddy and grandpa put in your malleable brain. Speaking of you dumb dad and dumb granddad, were one of them a Calvinist preacher or did y’all just attend?

    You’ve Calvinist programming is why you’ve thrown a temper tantrum every time I have mocked the absurd notion of a “work ethic” right? Ohhhh how it gets you in your guts eh?

    There is no such thing as activity specific ethics – ridiculous. They made it up. Not real. They made it up and capitalism co-opted it to get dupes like you to smile and feel good about your meaningless jobs. They know it sucks and someone has to do it; better you than them.

    Capitalism is good at co-opting and incorporating any idea and even threats and bring them into the fold. It’s like the Borg in that manner.

    BTW, how is it you are such an expert on black people and especially African Americans?

    Don’t you live in one of those has been postage stamp eurotard countries? Is everything you know about black people from the internet and dumb dad & granddad?

    Perhaps you are drawn to them for some other reason, like attraction. I can tell you from personal experience that once you have black you will never go back.

    Is it all that big black cock on the internet that is making you so angry? You want it but your social monkey tribe would banish you if they suspected. Make sure to wipe your hard drive regularly….. faggot.

  29. Cloggie on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:44 pm 

    hey look apneaman, you lost the presidency!

    “‘Only 17 black female professors in UK universities’”

    Yeah I know, affirmative action is big in the UK!

    Any idea how many black female professors they have in thwt Israel of yours? ZERO. Bunch of hollywood natzees these koshers:

  30. Apneaman on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 1:56 pm 

    clog & helo, here’s one for you.

    Black Professor: Whites Are ‘Inhuman A**holes’ And Should ‘F**king Die’

    Oh and thanks for ruining the site by turning into a platform for your racial propaganda that has ZERO to do with peak oil or any of the listed sub topics. Scum bags.

  31. onlooker on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:01 pm 

    Sounds just as disgusting coming from a Black towards Whites as vice-versa.

  32. Apneaman on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:02 pm 

    clog, do you think it’s possible that all that Nazi cum your mom swallowed to get something warm in her belly when she was pregnant with you during the Hongerwinter somehow retarded your brain devolvement?

    Perhaps that is how and where you developed your taste for seamen?

  33. Apneaman on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:09 pm 

    clog, hello, look at them all and remember that in addition being black their other commonality is that they are all more intelligent and accomplished than you loser eurotards could ever be.

    That’s what it is right? I mean all the hate and insecurity. You’re jealous and enraged because their existence disproves your bunk theories that your world is built upon.

    I bet there are easily over a billion non whites in the world that are superior to you in every way. Hell, there might be a billion in China alone.

    Category:African-American academics

  34. Hello on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:13 pm 

    >>> Is everything you know about black people from the internet

    No, the sludge is moving in from the south.
    And each time you visit an american (and nowadays even european) city you have to swim in brown/black sludge.

    Where are the sundown cities of the past?

    Are you black sludge? Let me see. Moocher? high-school drop out? Does the canadian gov (white working people) pay you a negro pity allowance?

  35. Hello on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:18 pm 

    >>>>> I bet there are easily over a billion non whites in the world that are superior to you in every way

    Absolutely. I only wish they were to stay in their shithole and show the world how good they are by cleaning it up. But then again. There’s not a single successful negro nation. And there is not a single safe and prosperous negro neighborhood in any city.
    Maybe those are indices?

  36. Hello on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:21 pm 

    >>> Category:African-American academics

    It’s amazing that they even have to have their own category on wikipedia. Because by default if it’s academic achievement it’s not by a negro.

    Let me guess. After the stellar success of “high-five” and wearing the pants at knee-level they made another great discovery? What is it this time?

  37. MASTERMIND on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 2:59 pm 

    Madkat: HOLY SHIT

    Ahead of Trump Visit, Philippine President Duterte Boasts He Once Stabbed a Man to Death

    Madkat this is the man you say you love with all your heart? Someone who compared himself with Hitler and admits to murdering someone for no reason…Once the oil starts to run out he is going to put his big government boot up your ass..I promise you without the big bad USA keeping the world safe. Your ass will be grass.

  38. Davy on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 3:33 pm 

    Mm, Mad Kat is a whore, he likes anyone anti-western or western alternative. He has his double standards that justify these alternatives. Can you imagine if an American politician talked that way, lol, Mad Kat would be all over it like stink on shit telling us how horrible he is.

  39. MASTERMIND on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 5:18 pm 


    Don’t forget he would also be telling us how brainwashed we were for putting up with that..And how much we deserved to die because of our inaction.

  40. MASTERMIND on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 5:20 pm 


    I bet anything Putin has Madkat1 personal email address in his troll farm in St Petersburg…

  41. JuanP on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:06 pm 

    The comments on this board are a sad reflection of what we’ve become. 🙁

  42. makati1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:15 pm 

    JuanP, I agree. But it gives insight as to why the world is as it is. Especially America. Denial, brainwashing, no real experience in the world outside their little neighborhoods, for most here. Just imagine, there are 7 plus billion views and opinions we never hear.

    We do live in “interesting times”. (Trouble and disorder.)

  43. Shortend on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:15 pm 

    Don’t take it too hard, Juan, life imitates Art…just ask Louis CK…

  44. Davy on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:17 pm 

    Shut up mad kat, you are the reason this board is in the gutter. When you are away the comments are balanced and rational. As soon as you return hate and discontent breeds. You are a disgusting subhuman.

  45. Anonymouse1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:31 pm 

    You shouldn’t repress your feelings and hold back exceptionalist. Let the world know how you really feel. It will give a warm fuzzy glow only prozac can match.

  46. Davy on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 6:49 pm 

    You are pretty bad too mouse but fortunately you are not here much. You are definely an embarrassment to normal Canadians. If you are Canada’s future they are screwed. No wonder you and Mad Kat like each other. Stupid likes stupid.

  47. MASTERMIND on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:06 pm 

    Madkat whats up with your leader dude? He admitted to stabbing someone to death for no reason…You think he will hesitate with an old elderly man like you? I bet you would kill innocent others too if you thought you could get away with it..You are one of those demented kind of freak shows that gets off to other peoples suffering…I bet you abused animals once or twice throughout life.

  48. makati1 on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:15 pm 

    MM, and do YOU actually think? Or parrot your US propaganda?

    I am only one of over 100,000 Americans living here. He doesn’t even know I exist. Why should UI worry? You cannot even go to church without being killed. Or a concert> Or even walk the street. And you try to scare me with some fairy tale. LMAO. Get real!

    You have a twisted mind,
    MM. I appreciate life, but I do NOT appreciate those who do kill innocents for their possessions, like the American military that are no more than paid mafia thugs doing the dirty work of American capitalist corporations. The blood of innocents is in every gallon of gas you pump. Enjoy!

  49. fmr-paultard on Fri, 10th Nov 2017 7:17 pm 

    Uh juantard what sad is your condoning SENTAPB and how about mad cat BEING silent to murder admission by duterte

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