Microgrids at the University of Sheffield

Around the world, sustainable microgrids are emerging as a vital tool in the fight against climate change and natural disasters. In the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, traditional energy grids struggle to keep the power flowing, causing outages that slow local economies and put lives at risk.


The UoS Energy Institute

The University of Sheffield is home to the Energy Institute, a research team which brings together academics and pioneers to work towards solutions to the world’s great energy challenges.

Housing 300 great minds from energy research around the world, the institute is dedicated to ‘transformational’ research, through innovation and collaboration. It is one of the largest energy research teams in all of Europe. Sought after by both industry and governments, the team has a reputation considered ‘world-class’.

microgrids at the university of sheffield

At the university, the institute works across faculties to educate the top students and train the next generations of energy experts. They work across all areas of research, from laboratory projects to working with industries for commercially viable solutions.

The Energy Institute works on projects across the entire energy sector, such as nuclear power, battery storage, carbon capture utilisation, wind, solar power, biofuels, conventional power and energy sustainability, resource efficiency, and circular economy. Part of their research includes the use of microgrids.

In more recent years, the institute is focused on renewable energy and sustainable solutions, working with governments and industries to support decarbonisation through development of low-carbon solutions. Applications of microgrids are a key part of their research into sustainability technology.

The Energy Institute aims to help develop a secure, sustainable energy future, focusing on negating climate change with new technologies, allowing for economic growth without environmental damage. They hope their research can help enable the UK to meet its target date of 2050 for carbon neutrality. Additionally, they aim to have a positive impact on UK energy sector jobs.

The institute has established five integral ‘pillars’ of research:

  • Advanced Low Carbon Conventional Energy Systems
  • Electrical Energy Storage and Applications
  • Safe, Secure and Sustainable Nuclear Energy
  • Wind Power
  • Energy Sustainability, Resource Efficiency and a Circular Economy

Microgrids are a key part of the Energy Systems and Energy Storage research, and their applications are explored through the institute’s inquiries.



Bringing Sustainable Energy to Rural Amazon Communities

The University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute is currently working on a project to construct a unique microgrid for a rural Amazon community. In partnership with research teams from universities in Brazil, they are developing a hybrid microgrid powered sustainably.

This microgrid will be powered by both solar panels, and by biogas from fruit residue and animal manure produced by local farms. This will replace the diesel generators currently used by the community, which are expensive, difficult to supply fuel for, and bad for the environment.


According to the Institute’s research, around 155,000 households in the Brazilian Amazon live without electricity. These households are largely in rural communities where the national grid is difficult or impossible to reach. Microgrid projects will help supply these communities with energy, allowing them to power household appliances, connect with the world via the internet, and use electricity for their agricultural work.

It is hoped that by introducing more microgrids to the Amazon, more people will choose to live there rather than migrating to cities. This will help preserve their cultural identity, as well as encouraging residents to oversee the forest ecosystem and guard from illegal deforestation.

The team studied the local area to assess the best energy solution for the community. They decided upon a mix of solar energy and biogas to power the microgrid. The biogas is produced by converting agricultural by-products through a device called an anaerobic digester. This method allows for adaptable energy; the biogas will produce enough energy during rainy seasons when the solar energy is insufficient. The recycling of the biowaste also helps improve living conditions for the community.

The data produced by this project will allow for further microgrids in similar communities throughout the Amazon. The next step for the team will be building the pilot-scale prototype microgrid in the community itself. This will help attract support and investors to the idea of microgrids as a viable solution to the needs of rural communities.



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