Niuera wind turbines in Nicaragua

Photograph courtesy Niuera

Great Energy Challenge Innovator: Niuera

Project: A low-carbon Nicaraguan power grid

Location: Managua, Nicaragua

Summary: Niuera (formerly reNo-Va) and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab have formed a strategic partnership to work at the intersection of grassroots and national needs for the development of sustainable energy strategies for Mexico and Central America (initial focus on Nicaragua). Through the use of country- and community-level energy modeling and appropriate technology, Niuera develops rapid-implementation strategies, and pilots decentralized renewable energy technologies for the enablement of post-petrol, low-carbon economies.

In this context, the partnership's current focus in Nicaragua is to: 1) develop the SWITCH optimization framework (a loose acronym for Solar, Wind, Hydro and Conventional generation and Transmission Investment) focusing on the use of local renewable energy resources and minimizing grid costs while meeting demand at all times (2013-2030), 2) develop a set of rapid-implementation technical strategies and training workshops to bring modeling results to reality, and 3) pilot a set of 'smart urban energy clusters' which will include smart metering, data visualization, community solar PV generation, storage, and household level demand response approaches.

In the last five years, Nicaragua has installed approximately 190 megawatts of wind energy capacity (14 percent of total installed capacity), and been heralded as one of Latin America's leaders in the transition to a renewable energy future. Yet, despite this great progress, the country's ambitious goals (79 percent and 93 percent renewables by 2017 and 2026 respectively) seem daunting. Niuera , the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab, and local partners are working together to turn this vision into a working reality.

Goal: To design a renewables rapid-implementation path, and pilot smart decentralized renewable energy technologies to enable a low-carbon grid in Nicaragua.

Project Participants:

  • Niuera (Diego Ponce de Leon Barido, PhD Student at The Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, and head of Niuera)
  • Nicaragua (Maria Virginia Moncada, professor at Nicaragua's National Engineering University and head of the University's renewable energy masters program; Lal Marandin, founder and head of PELICAN, S.A.)
  • University of California Berkeley (Daniel M. Kammen, professor at The Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley, head of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab; Duncan Callaway, assistant professor at The Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley, and head of the Energy Modeling and Controls Laboratory)

The Great Energy Challenge grant program, in collaboration with a distinguished group of scientists acting as the board of advisors, awards roughly a half-dozen grants per year. The goal of the grant program is to hasten the growth of promising, global energy solutions as a response to climate change, energy resource constraints and environmental limitations.

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