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Decarbonizing the Power Industry: The Role of DC Power and Smart Buildings

With the ongoing environmental crises and the accelerated pace of climate change, decarbonizing the power industry has become an imperative. One key player at the forefront of this transformation is direct current (DC) power, especially when it comes to usage in smart buildings. Coupled with efficient systems, this approach is ushering in a new era of sustainable and efficient energy use.

The Efficiency of DC Power

Powering modern buildings requires efficient and sustainable methods. Centralized low-voltage DC power systems are instrumental in meeting these requirements. Such systems streamline power distribution and reduce project capital costs associated with cable and power supplies.

Today, nearly 70% of power loads in our buildings require DC power. Devices such as LED lighting, HVAC systems, and 5G distributed antenna systems (DAS) significantly benefit from DC power. Yet, these devices often receive alternating current (AC) power, necessitating conversion. AC to DC conversions in individual devices can be quite inefficient and result in substantial energy waste.

For instance, let us consider LED lights, which have become ubiquitous due to their energy efficiency and longevity. Despite their benefits, when powered by AC sources, they require a built-in converter to transform the power to DC. These converters often waste about 20% of the energy consumed. With a centralized DC power system, the need for these inefficient conversions is eliminated. This means that DC loads become up to 20% more efficient, significantly reducing energy usage and operating expenses.

Fault-Managed Systems

Another aspect that aids in the decarbonization of the power industry is the fault-managed system, which incorporates a device known as a Class 4 device. This device is tasked with managing multiple faults, including events such as human contact with an exposed conductor of a cable, overvoltage, overcurrent, a cable being accidentally severed, or a connector being detached from a device.
In the event of any of these occurrences, the Class 4 device acts swiftly to limit the current and shuts down as quickly as possible. Fault-managed power systems detect and isolate faults in milliseconds, preventing them from affecting the entire power network. This results in increased system reliability and, consequently, better energy efficiency, as power isn’t wasted in downtime or repairs. Furthermore, these systems provide a safety layer. They limit the electrical and thermal energy output of the power source, thereby enabling safer installation and operation. This ultimately aids in improved energy utilization, supporting the overall decarbonization goal.

DC Power as a Solution

A major challenge in decarbonizing the power industry is the need to store and efficiently use energy generated from renewable sources. Most renewables, such as solar and wind, generate DC power. Centralized DC power systems facilitate a seamless integration of these renewable sources into the building power infrastructure, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing the carbon footprint.

Smart Buildings and Centralized DC Power Systems

In the context of smart buildings, centralized DC power systems gain even more significance. These buildings integrate various systems – lighting, HVAC, safety, security, and more – into a cohesive unit that enhances the building’s overall performance. However, these systems usually operate on DC power and require efficient power management.

Centralized DC power systems can intelligently distribute the required DC power to various loads, thereby reducing energy waste and optimizing power utilization. These systems can support numerous loads, including different types of LED fixtures, HVAC equipment, and as mentioned before, DAS. This results in a smart building that’s not just intelligent but also sustainable.

The role of power companies is crucial in our collective pursuit of a sustainable future. In conclusion, decarbonization of the power industry requires concerted efforts from numerous stakeholders. Leveraging the efficiency of DC power and smart building technology, coupled with innovative offerings from power companies we can pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future. The transformation may be complex, but with such technologies and dedicated players, it is more feasible than ever before.

Sagar Jaiswal, Chief Technology Officer, Cence Power