Humboldt State University students designed a cool device to try to help the 50 million households in the world relying on renewable energy mini-grids avoid brownouts by distributing their load on the grid more evenly. And it seems to work.
They conceived the grid-share idea, reports environmental research web, when HSU grad student Karma Dorji, who's from the Bhutan, explained the problem that people in his country were having, notes the story:
Many villages in Bhutan have micro hydroelectric mini-grids and brownouts are common, particularly first thing in the morning when people are heating water and in the early evening when people are cooking rice.
The students designed a device that tells a homeowner the status of the grid capacity at any given moment. If it's normal, then it's a good time to cook. If a brownout's pending, then maybe the cooking can wait. The device was used in a pilot project in the Bhutan:
The data showed that severe brownouts were reduced by over 92% after the GridShare devices were installed.
The results of the pilot project were published in the January-March 2013 Environmental Research Letters.