DC Building Power: Emerging Trends

DC Building Power: Emerging Trends, Application Drivers and Market Adoption Forecasts

Darnell, Date of Publication: Mar 20, 2012

The introduction of dc power to industries that traditionally rely on ac power is expected to cause a fundamental shift in how new and existing buildings are designed and operated. It will require manufacturers to design new products, adopt new standards and completely re-design their approach to power delivery systems. It must also be determined where a dc power system will completely replace the existing ac architecture and where the deployment of dc power delivery systems as part of a ac-dc hybrid architecture would be appropriate.  Despite the challenges, the addition of dc power delivery systems offers the potential for improvements in energy efficiency, reliability, flexibility, power quality and cost of operation as compared to traditional power systems.

This report identifies the potential market for dc power solutions in four specific sectors: data centers, commercial/industrial facilities, residential installations and telecom central offices. For each sector an analysis identifying two key market penetration rates of adoption for dc power was used. The first is the “threshold” rate of market penetration required for dc technology to achieve in each sector in order to continue expanding. The second penetration rate is the “saturation” rate, which represents the percentage of the market the technology expects to eventually capture in order to be considered mainstream. Once these market penetration rates are determined, a high level estimate of the dollar market for dc power systems and components for each sector covered will be presented.

This analysis was applied to each of the four areas covered in this report. Each area recorded a distinct threshold and saturation rate based on key market drivers specific to each industry. Two areas of immediate opportunity for the adoption of dc power are projected to be in the data center and commercial/industrial facilities segments. Both of these sectors are projected to reach their adoption stages by 2019. These facilities each have the advantages of strong standards activity, supporting government regulations, and a number of demonstration facilities. In addition, a small but growing number of products have been developed by companies like Delta Electronics, Emerson Network Power, Nextek Power Systems and others.

Although the telecom industry maintains a lower threshold penetration rate, due to its size it must reach a higher market saturation rate for adoption. The market drivers for this segment are much different than the other applications mentioned. Telecom central offices are already dc facilities and the technological, regulatory and economic factors needed for them to adopt a higher-voltage dc architecture, in addition to their current 48Vdc configuration, must be more compelling. In light of the eventual adoption of ETSI EN 300-132-3, there are a number of strong arguments for this industry to adopt an architecture combining both low and high voltage dc power, as well as a hybrid dc power architecture, combining 48Vdc for existing telecom equipment and higher-voltage dc for additional datacom equipment.

The residential dc industry is in a much earlier stage of development than the other industries covered in this report. Despite the trend towards zero net energy (ZNE), this sector does not have an established set of standards or any large bodies or organizations actively promoting technology or products. (A ZNE building is defined as one that produces as much energy as it uses in a year.) As a result, both the threshold and saturation rates are quite high.  However, there are a number of factors, including the large PV market and several government mandated programs that may provide the industry with a significant push.  

A ZNE building could significantly cut dependence on fossil-based energy and supply the required energy through on-site distributed generation, such as solar, wind, fuel cells, or microturbines. A market is already emerging for zero energy buildings today, but it remains a small fraction of the overall building construction industry.  However, a number of government initiatives designed to encourage development have been enacted.

In fact, in 2008 the California Public Utilities Commission introduced the state’s Zero Net Energy Action Plan for Buildings. Updated in 2011, the plan calls for all new residential construction in California to be zero net energy or equivalent to zero net energy by 2020. The same applies to commercial developments by 2030. (Equivalency allows the goal to be applicable to all buildings –even those unable to produce all net energy needs on site.) This will require an intense focus on reducing energy consumption through state-of-the-art design and technology, with grid-connected renewable energy to minimize each building’s residual carbon footprint.

As an emerging technology, the further development of dc power is highly reliant on the adoption of standards and regulations. At the lower power level, the EMerge Alliance has concentrated on the development of a 24Vdc standard for commercial, industrial and residential buildings. The EMerge Alliance Standard 1.0 regarding 24Vdc power creates an integrated, open platform for power, interior infrastructures, controls and a wide variety of peripheral devices to facilitate the hybrid use of ac and dc power within buildings.

In cooperation with other industry associations and standards-making bodies, the EMerge Alliance started working on a dc power standard for data center facilities in 2009. The selection of 380Vdc as the distribution voltage is based on the agreement of engineering data from a number of organizations in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In addition, EPRI developed the first dc voltage tolerance envelope plotting voltage variations versus time for 380Vdc powered equipment. The new dc voltage tolerance envelope provides the technical details of the electrical operating environment, including allowable voltage surges and sags that could enable engineers to design power converters for use with 380Vdc distribution systems for next-generation data center equipment.

This standard is being developed in parallel to an effort taking place with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and is expected to be in harmony with ETSI EN 300 132-3. It will address the problem of compatibility between the power supply equipment and both datacom/telecom equipment and to the different load units connected to the same interface. The eventual adoption of EN 300-132-3 poses both an opportunity and a challenge to the advocates of higher-voltage dc power in telecom central office facilities, as it allows equipment designed to this standard to be powered by either high voltage ac, single or three phase rectified ac, or dc current.

A dc microgrid is an emerging concept that could gain traction as other emerging technologies become more established. Defined by the Department of Energy as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that act as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid, these microgrids are expected to play an important role in the development of dc power.  In fact, a number of companies are already offering products to support the dc microgrid concept.

The implementation of a system that allows the delivery of dc power to a microgrid has the potential to provide a facility with a number of advantages, such providing reliability and power quality. In addition, as renewable energy technologies such as solar PV become more widespread, the development and use of a dc microgrid could evolve into a cheaper and more efficient alternative. A possible course of action is to install a dc network linking dc devices to dc power supplies.

The development of products and power supplies designed to work in a dc power environment is critical to the further expansion of dc power. Although power supplies and components for data centers are currently designed specifically for demonstration facilities and not widely available as standard products, a number of prominent companies are starting to see the potential of introducing dc power to data center facilities. Delta Electronics recently launched a state-of-the-art data center dc power solution that includes a complete product portfolio of dc UPS systems, power distribution units (PDUs), and server power supplies for more energy-efficient data center applications.

Additional factors contributing to the advancement of dc power include the large consumer electronics market, which operates exclusively on dc power and currently requires conversion from ac sources. These devices are common in every household and include televisions, set-top boxes and many others. In aggregate, the millions of conversions performed for the operation of these electronic devices extract a huge loss in energy during conversion and therefore represent a long-term opportunity.

Although dc power is still an emerging industry, it is already providing opportunities for a number of industries and applications. In this report over 35 illustrations are presented depicting a variety of power system schematics and comparisons, architectural standards, efficiency standards and other relevant information. The focus of this comprehensive analysis provides decision makers with an insightful look into the current and future opportunities and threats available in the dc building power supply market.

Various DC Building Power products and technologies are already providing sales opportunities across a range of applications. This comprehensive analysis provides decision makers with an insightful look into the current and future opportunities and threats available in the dc building power supply market.

Report Topics Include:

  • Emerging Trends and Developments
  • Additional Applications and Drivers
  • Pending Issues in the Development of DC
  • Current Areas of Development
  • Key Organizations Involved in Advancing DC Power
  • Estimated Market Projections
  • Selective Company Profiles



Emerging Trends and Developments  7
 Hybrid AC-DC Facilities 7
 DC Microgrids 9
 Zero Net Energy Facilities 11

Additional Applications and Drivers
 Lighting 14
 Consumer Devices 16
 Electric Vehicles 17
 Energy Storage 18
 Uninterruptable Power Supplies 19
 Variable Frequency Drives 21
 Intelligent Universal Transformers (IUT) 22

Pending Issues in the Development of DC Power
  Standards and Regulations 24

Current Areas of Development
 DC Data Center Facilities 29
 Containerized Data Centers 34
 Telecommunications 37
 Commercial/Industrial Facilities 40
 Residential Installations 43

Key Organizations Involved in Advancing DC Power
 EMerge Alliance 51
 European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 51
 Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan (IEEJ) 52
 Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) 52
 International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 53
 National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 53
 China Communications and Standards Association (CCSA) 54
 Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Organization (NEDO) 54
Estimated Market Projections
 Technology Life Cycle Analysis Methodology 55
 DC Data Centers 56
 Telecommunications (Central Offices) 60
 Commercial/Industrial Facilities 65
 Residential Installations 67
 Estimated Market Projection Summary ….. 71

Selective Company Profiles 72
 ABB Ltd. 72
 Anderson Power Products. 73
 Armstrong World Industries 73
 Cooper Industries 74
 Crestron Electronics 74
 Delta Electronics 75
 Direct Power Technologies 76
 Emerson Network Power 76
 Focal Point 77
 Fujitsu Components Ltd. 77
 GE Lineage Power 78
 Lunera Lighting 79
 Nextek Power Systems 79
 Osram Sylvania  80
 TE Connectivity  81


Figure 1 – Hybrid AC DC Coupled Power System  8
Figure 2 – DC Microgrid Configuration. 10
Figure 3 – Zero Net Energy Facility Illustration 12
Figure 4 – Zero Net Energy Building Configuration. 13
Figure 5 – Lighting Technology Opportunities for DC Power . 15
Figure 6 – Consumer Electronics Products Operating on DC . 16
Figure 7 – Comparison of the Structure between a DC and AC UPS & Load . 20
Figure 8 – Example of Variable Frequency Drive Using DC Power  22
Figure 9 – Example of DC House in the Future Using an IUT. 23
Figure 10 – EMerge Alliance First Standard for Occupied Space 25
Figure 11 – Various DC Voltage Configurations 380Vdc Sweet Spot 26
Figure 12 – Basic Configuration of a 380Vdc Power System 27
Figure 13 – AC vs. DC Data Center Architecture A Typical Comparison…. 29
Figure 14 – Multiple Conversion Steps Generate Inefficiency…. 30
Figure 15 – Duke Energy Data Center Configuration 31
Figure 16 – 300 - 400Vdc Operational and Demo DC Data Sites Worldwide. 32
Figure 17 – Containerized Data Center 35
Figure 18 – Modular Containerized Data Center Units 36
Figure 19 – Typical Telecom -48Vdc Power Supply system 38
Figure 20 – Comparison of AC, 48Vdc and HVDC Systems 39
Figure 21 – Representative Existing Broadband Telecom System 40
Figure 22 – DC Power Distribution in Commercial Facilities 41
Figure 23 – Nextek Power Server 42
Figure 24 – Examples of DC Power in Commercial and Industrial Facilities.  43
Figure 25 – Impact of Energy Savings in the Residential Sector. 44
Figure 26 – Proposed DC Powered House of the Future. . 45
Figure 27 – Residential DC Distribution Architecture . 47
Figure 28 – Proposed Hybrid Home Scenarios.  48
Figure 29 – Residential DC Microgrid.  49
Figure 30 – DC Powered Products save Energy  49
Figure 31 – DC vs. AC House  50
Figure 32 – AC vs. Direct DC Distribution in Residential Buildings  50
Figure 33 – Data Center Technology Life Cycle Analysis 57
Figure 34 – DC Power Solutions Projected Dates of Threshold Rates 59
Figure 35 –.Telecom Central Offices Technology Life Cycle Analysis 61
Figure 36 – DC Power Solutions Projected Dates of Saturation Points 63
Figure 37 – Commercial/Industrial Technology Life Cycle Analysis. 65
Figure 38 – Residential Technology Life Cycle Analysis. 68
Figure 39 – Power Systems and Components Projected Dollar Market at the Threshold Date. 70

Date of Publication:
Mar 20, 2012
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