The Cal Poly Sustainable Power for Electrical Resources (SuPER) Project

August 16, 2007 - 12:00pm
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The Cal Poly sustainable power for electrical resources (SuPER) project has completed two years of development for a low-cost source of electrical power for the 2 billion people who do not have access.  The overall goal of the Cal Poly SuPER system is to provide sustainable electrical power for a household unit over a 20-year life cycle for a total cost of $500.  A prototype has been developed, and consists of a solar photovoltaic module source with battery storage, a standard DC output voltage, and a computer/digital control and status subsystem.  The design is documented as an open source product.  A MatLab/Simulink simulation model has been developed, and has been verified by measurements with the prototype system.  This R&D effort focuses on a complete standalone electrical power system from the photovoltaic module with battery storage to representative loads:  LED lights, 1/4 HP DC motor, refrigerator, computer, TV, and battery charging.  The prototype system construction complies with existing electrical code standards and includes two levels of protection.  Two major features of the system design are the computer/digital status and control subsystem with measurements of voltage, current, temperature, and solar insolation (for overall efficiency), and the use of only DC output power for its loads.  The status and control design is very robust so that it can incorporate the improving technology for PV modules and for batteries.  The technical approach appears to have merit for achieving the SAI/SETP goals in 2015:  LCOE (levelized cost of energy) of 5¢/kWh and replacement of 10 GW of conventional electrical power generation.   Estimates for the prototype Cal Poly SuPER system LCOE are 29¢/kWh, system cost are about $1500, and average daily load power is at least 700W; estimates for the LCOE of representative commercially available products are much higher.  The work has been performed by Cal Poly undergraduate and graduate students while satisfying their senior project and master thesis requirements.

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