A team from the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus has won the James Dyson design award for the design of an emergency power supply module packaged into a standard 20 foot shipping container for deployment in natural disaster areas. The side walls and roof of the shipping container house solar photovoltaic panels. The rear part of the shipping container accommodates a diesel generator set and has space for fuel drums. A lithium ion battery pack is also built-in, to store energy generated from the solar PV modules for use after sunset.
In a natural disaster area, one of the first requirements is for the restoration of power supply so that relief and aid work can proceed round the clock. This module, combining solar power with back-up diesel generation, ensures that power supply is available as soon as the module reaches the site. The design of the energy module around a standard 20 TEU shipping container ensures that transport and handling issues are well known and standard. The module can be shipped to its destination on a truck or a barge or even in a plane. The container is self-standing and can be unloaded on any reasonably flat surface and quickly commissioned. The shipping container is made with rust resistant steel for long service life and is designed to withstand rough handling. The container is also shock resistant by design.
The solar modules are accommodated in recessed slots on the side panels of the shipping container to protect the modules from damage in transit. Thin film solar panels have been used, as these produce power even in low light or cloudy conditions. Thin film panels are also less brittle than the conventional crystalline PV panels, though their service life is lower. The The side panels are provided with hinged low pressure hydraulic lifting arms so that the panels can be locked open to receive solar radiation. The solar panels feed power into a high energy lithium ion battery pack slotted into the base of the shipping container. The battery storage helps reduce dependence on the diesel generator to conserve the fuel that has to be transported into the area.
A high efficiency diesel generator set is mounted on a platform at the back of the container with space for fuel drums storage below. Essential spares and tools for maintaining the diesel set are also carried in the storage space.
Once the panels are deployed open, the 20 feet X 8 feet X 8.5 feet space under them becomes an open space that can be used as a medical center or as office space for the relief workers. Since the transport container can carry around 20 tons of weight, it can carry fuel for the diesel sets and other relief supplies to the disaster area.
This project, called Rapid Energy Deployment System or R.E.D.S., was by a team from the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus, led by Dinesh Selvamurthy. This was one of 500 entries from 18 countries that competed for the James Dyson foundation’s annual contest for student projects that apply engineering principles to solve real life human needs.
The design of the packaged energy module is a good example of engineering design principles applied to a real world problem by the University of Nottingham Malaysia team and is worthy of the award.