The electricity loads being served by today’s alternating current (AC) power grids are increasingly natively direct current (DC), at the end-use level. In fact, according to some estimates, approximately 80 percent of the power loads in commercial and residential structures are now DC. Along with the broad political and policy support for inverter-based native DC power sources, this is leading many industry players to conclude that it makes inherent sense to reduce DC-AC-DC conversion losses and integrate DC distribution networks into the power supply infrastructure. According to a new report from Navigant Research, the total worldwide capacity of DC distribution networks will surpass 2.3 gigawatts (GW) by 2025, up from just 196 megawatts (MW) in 2013.
“There is heated debate about the advantages and disadvantages of DC, and several myths that still need to be debunked in order for this class of power distribution equipment to become mainstream,” says Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “One misconception is that DC is only 1 percent or 2 percent more efficient than AC grids. In fact, research by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that medium voltage DC networks are 7 percent to 8 percent more efficient than AC.”
At present, the majority of progress in developing DC-based technologies has occurred at either the high-voltage (more than 1,000V) or low-voltage (less than 100V) level of electricity service. Since microgrids typically operate at medium voltage (~380-400V), more work needs to be done to bridge this voltage innovation gap. This is the focus of technology companies such as ABB, Intel, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), Emerson Network Power, and others, according to the report.
The report, “Direct Current Distribution Networks”, provides a review of key market and technology trends with DC at high, medium, and low voltage levels, along with capacity and vendor revenue forecasts, broken down by region, for the following four market segments: DC data center microgrids, off-grid green telecom/village power systems, DC subsystems within commercial buildings, and small-scale modular systems for the U.S. Department of Defense’s 600 forward operating bases and mobile, tactical microgrids. Key players in the industry are profiled in detail, and SWOT analyses are provided for each market segment.
By: Richard Martin