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Sustainability and circularity assessment of solar photovoltaic electricity hubs for rural villages in sub-Saharan Africa

Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering

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Dr A Gallego Schmid , Dr Frank Podd No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project forms part of the Climate Emergency DTP, a new research cluster within the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester. The United Nations Paris Agreement from 2015 sets out a highly ambitious global challenge to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately transform energy, industrial and agricultural systems worldwide. This DTP will foster interdisciplinary research to deliver creative, innovative and transformational engineering solutions that address the climate emergency.

Over 800 million people lack access to electricity, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Although many people in the rural areas are very poor, they rely heavily on their mobile phones, performing mobile banking for example. Solar panels offered to these areas have typically been expensive pay-as-you-go home systems. These are beyond the reach of most people there. Solar hubs for the whole village are a much more sustainable model.

This PhD will focus on the implementation of solar hubs in villages in Malawi because Malawi only has a 4% rural electrification. The project will provide an assessment of the environmental, technical, and economic options generated, using life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) of solar PV electricity hubs. Different business models and various potential applications will be considered, including the autonomous drone recharging systems. We will also explore the introduction of circular economy concepts in the design of the solar hubs and different business models in the solar PV sector.

Tyndall Manchester is part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a world leading interdisciplinary research group which has produced impactful, policy relevant years for 20 years. At Tyndall Manchester researchers from engineering, physical science, social, science and economics backgrounds work on the biggest challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This includes current projects on energy system decarbonisation, bioenergy and carbon removal technologies, circular economy, the water-energy-food nexus, shipping and aviation, and community energy. Based in the University of Manchester’s School of Engineering, Tyndall Manchester has excellent links to departments across the University and with industry and policy makers worldwide. Recently shortlisted for the Guardian University Research Impact Award on sustainability, Tyndall Manchester has an ongoing commitment to impactful agenda setting research.

The research in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering is very wide ranging, spanning from microstructures, such as integrated circuit design, to macrostructures, such as high voltage overhead lines. The department works with a wide range of industrial partners, from multinationals through to small charities. The PhD researcher will work closely with the department to understand the technology behind solar panels, power distribution and metering, and develop IoT solutions for system monitoring and control.

Ref: MACEEngines MACEIndustry4.0

Funding Notes

Funding is provided by the School of Engineering and the EPSRC DTP. Home applicants and EU applicants who meet the residency requirement are eligible to apply.

Information on standard fees is available at and information on typical stipend is available at

General enquiries relating to the postgraduate application process within the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering should be directed to [Email Address Removed].


As an equal opportunities employer, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons. As the School is committed to the principles of the Race Equality Charter Mark and Athena SWAN, we would particularly welcome applications from women and the black and minority ethnic (BME) community, who are both currently under-represented at this grade. All appointments will be made on merit.
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