WP2 revolves around questions of how to successfully embed and commercialize the
prototype in the rural Indian energy market. The company Rural Spark, leading this WP, specializes in the design, fabrication and renting out of energy solutions to rural Indian villages (Mertens et al, 2013). With their energy innovations Rural Spark strives to enable the bottom-up growth of a distributed energy network that can stand alone but also, in principle, be integrated into the existing grid.
Rural Spark will be supported by a post-doc from the Indian institute TERI, internationally known for their expertise on energy research. The post-doc will conduct a theoretical investigation into existing smart grid hard/software options and how these fit into the specific rural Indian context. The experience on micro-grid and rural net metering from TERI will be very valuable here. This research will result in a computer based smart grid model, ideally visualizing energy/money/control flows as well as an implementation roadmap.
Theoretical insights together with trials will inform the actual prototype development carried out by PRE. PRE will translate theory and set specifications into a multi-port power converter, which allows villagers to automatically trade energy through cables with each other.
In order to test and optimize their products to the customers’ needs and circumstances, Rural Spark carries out the design and development approach called Hidden Design (Tomico et al, 2012). This includes “rapid” prototypes that will be implemented in the context with all stakeholders present. From the outset users are not approached as participants in a codesign research, but as real customers. Rural Spark has found this method to be the most suitable for acquiring insights into the actual use of the products. Direct feedback from the field allows Rural Spark to quickly optimize the prototypes and design a product and system that meets the users’ requirements.