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Investigating Technological Complexity in the Design of small-scale, off-grid Photovoltaic Systems in Rural Tanzania

Pia Henoch ; Jessica Steen Englund
Göteborg : Chalmers tekniska högskola, 2015. 109 s.
[Examensarbete på avancerad nivå]

In this Master’s thesis the phenomenon of technological complexity in the design of small-scale, off-grid photovoltaic (PV) systems in rural Tanzania is studied. Interviews were carried out with technicians, PV company employees (PCEs) and energy sector stakeholders (ESNs) during a nine-week field study in Dar es Salaam and the Ruvuma Region. Sites with small-scale, off-grid PV systems in Ruvuma Region were also visited and studied during this period. The concept of technological complexity is developed and investigated through literature studies, interviews, site visits and by the analysis of the result. The concept of technological complexity is studied and analyzed at two system levels; first, the technical system level, where the hardware and software of the PV system design is in focus; and secondly the stakeholder system level, where the stakeholders, who design, implement, use, operate and maintain the PV system are studied. The result shows that the all three stakeholder groups emphasize seven main considerations, related to the two system levels, to take into account when designing small-scale, off-grid PV systems. At a technical system level, four main considerations are identified; 1) choices of technology and components; 2) system sizing; 3) protection of the system and in particular the battery; and 4) quality in components and installations. At a stakeholder system level, three main considerations are identified; 1) affordability; 2) education, capacity building and awareness raising; and 3) user friendliness, maintenance and responsibility. One of the main considerations at a technical system level is the choice of technology and components. During the study, two design approaches were identified to diverge from the typical choices of technology and components in a standard PV system design. One approach is to use locally assembled components, instead of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) components. The other approach is to integrate a remote monitoring- and controlling system (RMCS) in the PV system design. The benefits and drawbacks of the two approaches are analysed in relation to the seven main considerations. Further, the level of technological complexity of the two approaches is analysed by comparing them to a standard PV system. Locally assembled components are shown to have a low level of complexity at a technical system level, while the same is high for PV systems with RMCS. It is found that a low level of complexity at a technical system level can lead to a high level of complexity at a stakeholder system level, and vice versa. It is also found that the complexity level is different depending on which stakeholder perspective is taken on – user-, local technician- or company perspective. It is found that the concept of technological complexity can serve as a tool to analyze the potential for technology transfer, as well as when designing PV systems.

Publikationen registrerades 2015-10-14. Den ändrades senast 2015-10-14

CPL ID: 224207

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