Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Competition Year: 2014

GridForm - Bringing power to rural people through better planning

Energy and Environment Housing and Transportation

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Our Pitch

Of India’s 1.2 billion citizens, nearly 300 million lack access to electricity. Although most urban poor have access to grid power, rural Indians have no such hope of being connected to the larger network due to their distance from primary infrastructure, lower population densities, and exorbitant cost of power on a per kWh basis due to transmission loss. One of the most promising solutions is the creation of stand-alone village-sized microgrids powered by renewable generation. Unfortunately, a lack of village-level data and ad-hoc planning practices have stymied the growth of microgrid companies as well as their ability to adapt to their customers’ needs.

We propose to empower microgrid and renewable generation development in rural India through a first-of-its-kind rural planning software which rapidly identifies, digitizes, and models rural development sites. Because the regions that most need microgrid development are also extremely cost-constrained, rather than focus on hardware we create value through affordable planning software that can be widely licensed. Our product, developed together with a number of community partners in India, can realize immediate 15-30% savings by rapidly identifying optimal candidate villages from groups of hundreds, optimizing grid layout and design through simulation, and accurately sizing hardware to allow for eventual growth in time.

With our prototype nearing completion, we will be ready for field testing in the summer of 2014.


We have created the first-ever rural planning software tool for empowering development projects to plan before they build/create. Though we plan to electrify hundreds, our real goal is in bringing rural planning out of the trial-and-error dark ages.

Who We Are

Brian Spatocco (DMSE, PhD student) currently researches grid-scaled energy storage as well as urban energy planning in India as an MIT Tata Fellow. In addition to his expertise in GIS and computational modeling, Brian brings to the team experience working with start-ups and market entry strategy from his time at the Judge Business School (University of Cambridge) in 2009 where he earned a Masters in Enterprise.

George Chen (EECS, PhD student) builds statistical machine learning tools for analyzing social data and medical images. He brings to GridForm his experience in object recognition in aerial images of cities and his interest in using data analytics for social good. He holds an SM from MIT in EECS and a BS from UC Berkeley with dual majors in EECS and Engineering Mathematics & Statistics.

Ling Xu (HST, PhD student) brings to the team her skills in computational imaging and image analysis. As a medical engineer, she leverages advanced processing to detect cancerous tissue from bulk x-ray imaging. She also contributes a strong ability to communicate across diverse cultures from her experiences of working abroad, and will be able to help the team form important connections with relevant foreign communities.

Kendall Nowocin (EECS, PhD student) researches power system reliability and availability of developed and developing power grids. He is a certified Engineer in Training (EIT) with extensive work experience in the manufacturing and automation from working at Robert Bosch. He has additional experience in developing small and large power systems from working on residential and industrial electrical projects for Atlantic Electric and a 2.4 GW power plant for SC Power Utility. At GridForm, he is working on grid mapping, optimization, and cost functions.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Selco Foundation




SELCO Foundation aims to use the philanthropic capital at its disposal to develop robust and field-proven technological and financial models in the field of renewable energy, and generate public awareness about these models. These models can be replicated in other parts of the world, thereby achieving greater leverage on the money spent. Objectives: 1. To achieve rural development, and conservation of environment by promoting the use of renewable energy. 2. To support the poor to install sustainable energy equipment for their domestic or income generating activities. 3. To conduct research and outreach projects in sustainable energy services, power conservation, and to develop modern equipment to capture renewable energy in more efficient and effective ways.


  • Service Location
    J P Nagar, Bangalore, India
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Comments and Support

  • Dispongo planos de ubicación de lotes (georeferenciados en UTM) de 13 centro poblados de la selva peruana, donde se podrían diseñar dos mircrogrid, con el software GridForm, como ejemplos o casos reales. También dispongo de más planos en lugares rurales muy alejados de las ciudades. Si les interesa, favor de indicarme a que correo los puedo enviar. mi correo es

    Posted by j. romero on Tue, Mar 29th 2016, 17:45 Report Abuse

  • I presume you already know about the HOMER software ( if not, it is very relevant to your project. We would be interested to talk about possible collaboration. Peter Lilienthal, Ph.D. Founder & CEO, HOMER Energy, LLC.

    Posted by P. Lilienthal on Mon, Jun 22nd 2015, 03:00 Report Abuse

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