Adoption Pathways for DC Power Distribution in Buildings †
- It expands the study scope beyond the residential sector to commercial buildings and communities.
- It conducts a comprehensive technology and market assessment by evaluating DC standards and end-use devices (EUDs), analyzing field deployments of DC power distribution, and identifying DC products for electrical end uses in buildings.
- It utilizes the results of an expert elicitation of 20 DC power and building professionals to outline opportunities, lessons learned, challenges, and specific applications for DC distribution systems in buildings.
- It conducts a simulation-based energy savings analysis of DC versus AC distribution for three end-use categories (EUCs): lighting, electronics, and motor-driven loads.
- It presents specific adoption pathways and evaluates each pathway’s technological and market readiness, energy savings potential, and resiliency benefits.
2. Technology Review
2.1. DC End-Use Devices
- Solid-state lighting operates on DC. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are current-controlled devices that use a driver to regulate luminosity. DC LED drivers are typically more efficient and can be less expensive than AC LED drivers because they use fewer power electronics and do not need to rectify the AC input . Specifically, DC drivers do not require large electrolytic capacitors for canceling AC power ripple [33,34]. Eliminating those capacitors can significantly increase the driver’s life span. Furthermore, because DC voltage levels are generally better matched to the LED string voltage, DC drivers do not require an internal flyback transformer, which can lead to additional cost savings .
- Electronic equipment is the fastest growing electric load in the building sector and operates on DC. Desktop computers, televisions, and other display equipment generally include an internal rectifier that converts 120 V AC to the device’s main DC bus voltage. Increasingly, several (primarily portable) electronics are also DC-ready; that is, they have a DC input and utilize an external power supply (also called power adaptor) to convert AC to DC. Cell phones, laptops, modems, and routers are examples of DC-ready electronics.
- Motor-driven equipment, such as fans, pumps, and refrigeration equipment, accounts for the largest electricity consumption in buildings in the United States. The most efficient equipment uses brushless DC motors and variable frequency drives where applicable . These loads are DC-internal because they rectify the 60 Hz AC input to DC, and use a separate inverter to drive the motor at the desired AC frequency. DC-powered variable frequency drives (VFD) avoid this rectification stage and utilize a smaller capacitor bus, leading to additional cost savings . Even more efficient DC-internal motors, such as high-rotor pole switched reluctance motors and printed circuit board motors, are coming on the market, which could lead to additional energy and cost savings.
- Other DC-indifferent equipment includes items such as resistive heating elements. These are included in water heaters, cooking equipment (ovens, cooktops, toasters), hand irons, blow dryers, etc. Resistive elements are indifferent to DC or AC—they can be connected to AC or DC distribution without significant modifications.
2.2. Distribution Standards
3. Market Assessment
3.1. Deployment Case Studies
3.2. Availability of DC End Uses
4. Energy Savings by End-Use Category
5. Expert Elicitation
Installation Cost Savings
6. Adoption Pathways
6.1. Office Workstations
6.2. PoE Lighting
6.3. EV Charging
6.4. Residential Backup Power
6.5. Community Microgrid
6.6. Building-Integrated PV Powering Local End Uses
7. Conclusions and Discussion
Informed Consent Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Study||Expert Feedback Method||Main Conclusions and Recommendations|
|#||Site and Location||Description||Distribution Voltage(s)||Resiliency Features *||Information Source **|
|1||Catalyst Building, Spokane, WA||New zero-energy (ZE) building with direct-DC lighting||Unknown||URL|
|2||Whole Foods Mkt., Berkeley, CA||Supermarket retrofit with direct-DC lighting system||24 V||URL|
|3||Honda Distr. Center, Chino, CA||Warehouse retrofit (DC load: 175 kW)||380 V||I, URL|
|4||Sust. Resource Center, San Diego, CA||Demonstration of small direct-DC lighting system (DC load: 800 W)||24 V||URL|
|5||Silvercloud Winery, Glen Ellen, CA||Microgrid connecting end uses, generation, and battery storage||380 V||URL|
|6||Alliance Center, Denver, CO||Proof of concept project in part of commercial office building||24 V, USB||SV, I, URL|
|7||Sinclair Hotel, Ft. Worth, TX||18-story hotel retrofit with PoE lighting (100%), electronics, and appliances||PoE||N/A||SV, I, URL|
|8||Public school, Edina, MN||Retrofit of classroom and office room to use PoE lighting (DC load: 600 W)||PoE||N/A||SV, I|
|9||CEE building, Minneapolis, MN||Partial cubicle area retrofit to PoE-supplied lighting (DC load: 480 W)||PoE||N/A||SVI|
|10||Kirtland Airforce Base, Albuquerque, NM||Residential community microgrid using DC bus to connect residences||380 V, 750 V||I, URL|
|11||Purdue Univ., West Lafayette, IN||Retrofit of an entire house for DC distribution (demonstration)||380 V||I, URL|
|12||West Baden Springs Hotel, French Lick, IN||Retrofit of >500 light fixtures to PoE (DC load: 4 kW)||PoE||N/A||URL|
|13||Smart Home, Detroit, MI||Residential test-bed for DC technologies and appliances||USB, 24 V, 380 V||I, URL|
|14||Bedrock Real Estate, Detroit, MI||Retrofit of commercial office lighting system||24 V||N/A||URL|
|15||Burlington microgrid, Burlington, CA||Manufacturing facility building (DC lighting load: 12 kW)||380 V||I, URL|
|16||AGU Building, Washington, D.C.||Six-story office building retrofit to ZE (all lighting and offices powered by DC)||24 V, USB, 48 V||SV, I, URL|
|17||Fort Belvoir, Alexandria, VA||Partial demonstration fluorescent lighting system retrofit (DC load: 1 kW)||24 V||URL|
|18||Fitness center, Fort Bragg, NC||Retrofit of 44 lighting fixtures, 4 ceiling fans (DC load: 15 kW)||380 V||I, URL|
|19||Livingston and Haven, Charlotte, NC||25,000 ft2 facility retrofit with high bay lights and ceiling fans (DC load: 15 kW)||380 V, 48 V||SV, I, URL|
|20||Watt Center, Clemson, SC||Partial retrofit to showcase PoE lighting and electronics (DC load: 5–10 kW)||PoE||N/A||SV, I, URL|
|21||PNC Bank, Fort Lauderdale, FL||ZE building with partial DC lighting system||24 V||URL|
|Device Groups||Device Subgroups||“Standard” DC Voltages||Sites Avail.||Market Avail.||Availability Comments|
|Electronics||TVs, cell phones, printers, and scanners; audio, network, and computing equipment||PoE, USB,|
12 V, 24 V
|Lighting||General, landscape, high bay, and task lighting||PoE, 12 V,|
24 V, 48 V, 380 V
|Refrigeration||Refrigerators, freezers, ice makers, vending machines||PoE, 12 V,|
24 V, 380 V
|Space heating and cooling||Heat pump/rooftop air conditioners, variable refrigerant flow units, portable and ceiling fans, radiant floor heating||12 V, 24 V, 380 V||✯||✯|
|Cooking||Induction cooking, microwave ovens||12 V, 380 V||Ø||✯|
|Water heating||Heat pump water heaters||380 V||Ø||Ø|
|Large appliances and other motor loads||Clothes washers and driers, dishwashers, pumps, fans, compressors||380 V||✯||✯|
|EV charging||DC fast charging equipment||380 V||✯||✯|
|Miscellaneous loads||Vacuum cleaners, humidifiers, garage doors, hairdryers, irons, window shades, process loads||PoE, USB, 12 V, 24 V, 48 V, 380 V||✯||✯|
|EUC||DC Distribution Efficiency Improvement (%)|
|No PV||PV||PV and Battery|
|Topic Area||Interviewees’ Feedback||Interviewees #||Electronics||Lighting||Motor Loads||Other End Uses|
|Opportunities||Low-voltage DC/PoE has reduced installation cost—no licensed electricians required||3||✓||✓||✓|
|Low-voltage DC/PoE is reconfigurable (e.g., allows moving electrical outlets without worry of electrical shock)||2||✓||✓||✓|
|PoE allows control of energy consumption on all switch ports||1||✓||✓||✓|
|Challenges||Misconception and lack of knowledge leads to lengthy/expensive design and permit process||5||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|DC metering and robust connector standards are currently unavailable||3||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Small companies providing DC technologies are risky (several have gone out of business)||3||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|DC microgrid control systems are expensive and proprietary; no plug-and-play product available||2||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|PoE switch cannot be fully turned off (security issues, standby losses)||1||✓||✓||✓|
|Recommendations||Big companies should be involved to avoid bankruptcy risk, along with a small number of vendors for efficiency||4||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Permitting authorities must be involved early in projects||3||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|DC system vendors should offer a package of DC end uses to consumers||3||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Dual-input devices would be compatible with both AC and DC distribution||2||✓||✓|
|Spot inverters can be used for specialized devices without DC input||1||✓|
|Suggested applications and adoption pathways||Community microgrids of multiple buildings||3||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Lighting applications in commercial buildings||3||✓|
|EV charging for commercial applications||2||✓|
|Electronics and office equipment||2||✓|
|Big box buildings with warehouse and office space||1||✓||✓||✓|
|All-DC buildings, due to efficiency benefits||1||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|#||Adoption Pathway||Technology Readiness||Market Readiness||Resilience Benefits||Energy Savings Potential|
|4||Residential backup power||✯✯||✯||✯✯||✯✯|
|6||BIPV powering local end uses||✯✯||✯||✯||✯✯|
|Ratings: ✯: low; ✯✯: medium; ✯✯✯: high|
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Vossos, V.; Gerber, D.L.; Gaillet-Tournier, M.; Nordman, B.; Brown, R.; Bernal Heredia, W.; Ghatpande, O.; Saha, A.; Arnold, G.; Frank, S.M. Adoption Pathways for DC Power Distribution in Buildings. Energies 2022, 15, 786. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15030786
Vossos V, Gerber DL, Gaillet-Tournier M, Nordman B, Brown R, Bernal Heredia W, Ghatpande O, Saha A, Arnold G, Frank SM. Adoption Pathways for DC Power Distribution in Buildings. Energies. 2022; 15(3):786. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15030786Chicago/Turabian Style
Vossos, Vagelis, Daniel L. Gerber, Melanie Gaillet-Tournier, Bruce Nordman, Richard Brown, Willy Bernal Heredia, Omkar Ghatpande, Avijit Saha, Gabe Arnold, and Stephen M. Frank. 2022. "Adoption Pathways for DC Power Distribution in Buildings" Energies 15, no. 3: 786. https://doi.org/10.3390/en15030786