Advantages of In-Building DC Power Use
August 31, 2015 - Power & Communication
By Bruce Graham
There are other advantages to the use of DC power.
1. Safety. Most of the uses we are describing are low voltage and low current in nature. This means the power levels typically involved at user touch points are below the UL standard for shock hazard and startle levels. Because of its safe nature, it is also very easy to install and scale. Conversions of any size from single rooms to whole buildings are all economically viable.
2. Flexibility. It is now easier and less expensive to install, replace, and/or relocate fixtures, sensors, and other devices, making construction and refurbishing cost effective. Also note that in many cases the equipment and wiring are considered personal property and can be deprecated in far shorter periods as allowed in the tax codes.
3. Sustainability. We have covered the energy savings which is sustainable by itself. But these apparati are simpler and have fewer components. This means less material to create, less waste, less weight and shipping, and easier to recycle. Simpler devices also take less energy consumption to create. The use of DC can be universal. Think of products made and sold globally that no longer have to be fabricated in different models to match the different types of AC power around the world. And simpler, especially as related to electronics, almost always means more reliable, further lowering the total cost of ownership.
4. Resiliency. The ever-increasing rate of power quality problems and outright failures of the current centralized power grid is well documented. Recent increases in the stress put on centrally powered grids by both natural and man-induced events has made this abundantly obvious in recent times. Just say Sandy or Katrina and you will evoke a shiver of fear in most people, and rightly so. But whether it’s a vehicle accident taking out a utility pole or a 100 MPH hurricane taking out a sea shore community, the result is often the same: large areas of affected populations that end up without power for often too long periods of time. An interconnected mesh network of large and small grids — working together to back up, isolate and otherwise limit the possibility of large linear dynamic cascading system failures — is what an Enernet of power will provide.
Finally, back to the impact on the power grid, a 14 percent reduction in overall demand for certain segments of power users will further ease demand and lessen black/brown-outs. Imagine the ability to service a growing population, without the need to add to our power supply infrastructure and capabilities while we wait for the technology and costs of cleaner power to become viable and meaningful. So if you want to reduce energy consumption and thereby reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, start using DC power where it is most effective and we can start seeing immediate results.
Bruce Graham is a past Director and Vice Chairman of the EMerge Alliance, a nonprofit and industry leading group dedicated to the creation and use of standards for low voltage hybrid ac/dc “nano” and “microgrids” for residential and commercial buildings and properties. Information can be viewed at www.emergealliance.org.