Final Report: Sustainable Energy Systems Design for a Tribal Village in India

EPA Grant Number: SU832464
Title: Sustainable Energy Systems Design for a Tribal Village in India
Investigators: Mancilla, Fernando , DeFoort, Morgan , Gitano-Briggs, Horizon Walker , Grabbe, Robert , Kirkpatrick, Alex , Ramaswami, Anu , Troxell, Wade O.
Institution: University of Colorado at Denver , Colorado State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006 (Extended to December 31, 2008)
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2005) Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


These students assisted with this project: Mark Pitterle, Paul Sturtyevant, Mike Posner, Rachel Werther, Civil Engineering, Unviersity of Colorado Denver (UCD), Jonathan Hicks, Terry Mapes, Tim Morse, Wessam Al-Hassen, Meg Plank, Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University.
In Phase 1 of this project, the University of Colorado Denver team built a low-cost wind generator entirely manually using primarily old car parts, building upon the design of High Piggot. Such a design furthers appropriate technology for providing renewable energy for rural parts of the developing world. However, the low cost wind generator needed better system integration with components such as battery charge controllers, and integration with solar photovoltaic panels so that the energy in both sun and wind can be harnessed effectively.
The objective of Phase 2 was to design a combined hybrid wind-solar system for deployment in an orphanage being built for children orphaned by the Tsunami of 2004. Specifically, the system should function safely and provide about 10 kWh of end-use electricity per day for lights, fans and a small radio or TV for about 50 boys or girls housed in the dormitory.
Specific project objectives were:
  • Develop an improved low-cost charge controller for the wind power system capable of peak power tracking and better over-speed protection as these were found to be important improvements needed in Phase 1 work.
  • Test the wind generator system for safety at our labs at University of Colorado Denver, primarily to verify if the logic of the controller works to achieve peak power tracking, and to prevent the wind system from over-speeding.
  • Gather wind data for about 6 months to one year at the field site in Matara, Sri Lanka by installing a hand-made anemometer with data logger.
  • Develop the hybrid renewable energy system design to meet the electricity needs of a single 50 bed dormitory at the Metta Youth Center (MYC), located in Matara Sri Lanka
  • Meet with local contractors for implementation.In year 2008, the primary activity was to transfer project funds to contractors to implement the system in the field in Sri Lanka.
All of the above steps except the last have been accomplished; with the last step awaiting final installation by licensed electrical contractors in Sri Lanka. Funds from EPA have been utilized/encumbered so that the project is now closed.
This became a longer project than originally intended because of the requirement to gather several months of wind data on site, the need to test the wind generators for safety (small wind generators have not previously been tested due to the high cost of safety testing), and the challenges in importing batteries, solar panels and invertors to Sri Lanka.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Lab testing and limited field testing revealed the effectiveness of the following products designed in this study:
o   Hand-made anemometers – Several hand-made anemometers with low-cost data logging devices (bicycle odometers) were constructed by the University of Colorado Team to be put in place at the field site. The devices were designed to record wind speed data in areas with no access to electricity or computers, and worked effectively for periods of 6 months or more. Local Buddhist monks were able to monitor wind speed data effectively using these devices.
o    Local Knowledge: Innovative local design was integrated to build an anemometer tower that used the hollow of an old banyan tree to erect the anemometer to more than a height of 80 feet.
o   UCD Wind Turbine Construction and Testing: Three different wind generator designs of different size were constructed and tested at UCD laboratories. A small Universal Axis Helical Turbine and various Vertical Axes Wind Turbines, were operated for direct DC current generation, and for water pumping. Various low-cost materials and designs were explored and energy production measured using fan blower testing. Costs ranged from $20 for the UAHT suited for operating small LED lamps generating about 10W at 15 miles per hour, to $1000 for a large VAWT operated for pumping water that achieved an efficiency of ~6%. Designs were developed for larger Horizontal Axes Wind Turbines (HAWT) with hand-carved wooden blades 6 feet, 8 feet and 10 feet in diameter, a major accomplishment as available hand-made wind turbine designs were previously only available for 6 feet diameter wooden blades. Based on cost effectiveness, the 10 foot blade HAWT design (costing about $2000 USD) was chosen for the field with an expected power output of about 1kW at 15 mph winds.
o   Charge Controller: Low-cost charge controllers were designed and built by undergraduate electrical engineering students at UC Denver and mechanical engineering students at Colorado State University, as part of their senior design classes. The charge controllers were designed to maximize electricity production from wind and storage in batteries. They also served as over-speed control shutting down the wind turbines at high rpm. The cost of the charge controllers was estimated at $50 if mass-produced versus commercially available models at the time that cost about $500.
These charge controllers are being tested for long-term durability and performance for a period of 1 year as required by testing standards. Figures and photos of these activities are shown on the next page.
In Year 2, a hybrid wind-solar field system was designed for the site in Sri Lanka by electrical engineering professor Dr. Fernando Mancilla. Based on the power needs of the dormitory, and an estimate of the hours of power use, a 3.2 kW system was designed to provide end-use of 10 kWh per day for one dormitory as shown below, assuming 5 hours of wind/sun, and 30% line losses.
Implementation is contracted to Vence – a licensed electrical installations corporation in Sri Lanka, who in-charge of the final field installation at a total cost of $36,000, including costs of purchasing and importing solar panels and batteries from Singapore.
3. On The Ground Community and Environmental Impacts
The following social, environmental and economic sustainability benefits are calculated from a 10 kWh/day (3.2MW) operating renewable energy system on site:
  • Socially, the system will provide power to residential dormitories housing 50 girls and boys orphaned by the tsunami of 2004, who have lost both parents. The renewable energy installation at the Metta Youth Center (MYC) provides an important social service to the area.
  • Economic Benefits: Funds for operating the dormitory at the MYC were provided by the Red Cross of Singapore for the first year. Sustaining dormitory operations is now possible because of the renewable energy system installed though this P3 project that will save MYC Rupees 15.5 per kWh for a 10 kWh per day system, yielding annual savings of about USD 550 per year to the MYC. Additional savings through possible Clean Development Mechanism were also explored and found to be small.
  • Environmental Benefits:   The primary environmental benefit of this project is CO2, SOX and NOx reduction from reducing emissions from grid-electricity. With line losses in excess of 20% and a CO2e displaced factor of 0.8 kg/kWh, a 10kWh per day renewable electricity supply will displace 2.5 metric tones of CO2e per year over the life of the project.


Metta Youth Center (MYC) dormitory in construction at Matara, Sri Lanka.


Test bed results from testing the wind generator charge controller for peak power tracking (Gitano et al., 2007)


Anemometer Installed for Wind Data Logging to a height of 80 feet
4. Educational Impacts at UCD
This P3 project was integrated into UCD’s Civil Engineering Systems – Sustainable Infrastructure curriculum in three major ways:
  • A new course titled “Field Methods for Sustainable Development” was developed by Professor Ramaswami, in which tools for site assessment and infrastructure design are discussed.
  • Two small renewable energy exhibits have been constructed by Professors Mancilla and Grabbe for students to gain hands-on experience with wind and solar energy, respectively. One includes a smaller wind generator on UCD’s roof, and a small solar photovoltaic system – a web cam will be installed in Spring 2009 to create a ‘Wind Generator On the Web” exhibit.
  • Three MS students have completed MS Reports on various sub components of this project.
  • Charge Controller design and testing has been part of the senior design classes of Mechanical Engineering students at Colorado State University and Electrical Engineering students at UC Denver.
Student feedback on the role of this project in their learning of fieldwork for sustainability has been very positive.
Leverage of Funding: This EPA P3 project (Phase 1 and Phase 2) leveraged an additional $10,000 from the First Data Western Union Foundation for sustainable and humanitarian work in Asia. With a grant proposal to the Department of Energy, Dr. Mancilla seeks to further develop small wind generator testing in the US.

Journal Articles on this Report : 2 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 3 publications 2 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Mihelcic JR, Zimmerman JB, Ramaswami A. Integrating developed and developing world knowledge into global discussions and strategies for sustainability. 1. Science and Technology. Environmental Science & Technology 2007;41(10):3415-3421. SU832464 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: Environmental Science & Technology
  • Other: Environmental Science & Technology PDF
  • Journal Article Ramaswami A, Zimmerman JB, Mihelcic JR. Integrating developed and developing world knowledge into global discussions and strategies for sustainability. 2. Economics and governance. Environmental Science & Technology 2007;41(10):3422-3430. SU832464 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: Environmental Science & Technology
  • Other: Environmental Science &Technology PDF
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, waste reduction, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Ecology and Ecosystems, International, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, energy storage options, sustainable development, waste minimization, environmental sustainability, India, conservation, energy efficiency, energy technology, engineering, solar energy, alternative energy source, resource recovery, solar zeolite refrigeration, wind energy, renewable resource, renewable energy

    Relevant Websites:

    Some aspects of this project are reported at:
    UC Denver’s Web site:

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008

  • P3 Phase I:

    Sustainable Energy Systems Design for a Tribal Village in India  | Final Report