High performance buildings are designed and built for flexibility and efficiency. The built environment is no longer viewed as a non-performing asset, but rather a tool to leverage people and process to achieve the desired business results. Optimizing the performance of people and process requires building standards and design that consider the occupants, their culture and the need for adaptive and flexible space that supports the changing demographics and work styles of today, with a considerable bias in improving building efficiency and cost.
In the past, the flexible and modular architectural elements combined with raised flooring, incorporating under floor air distribution (UFAD), defined a high performance building. The reality was these design principles often applied to new construction, where the building design was initiated on a blank sheet of paper. Additionally, flexible and energy efficient building design began with a paradigm of AC power distribution without consideration of more energy efficient DC power. Further, these high performance buildings have too often been devoid of the use of Photovoltaic (PV) or other alternative energy resources to contribute to the power requirements of the overall building or even the lighting systems within.
Today, with the efforts of EMerge Alliance® and many lighting industry leaders, along with Nextek Power Systems, high performance buildings can be taken to a new level of flexibility and energy efficiency. With the integration of a flexible DC Microgrid strategy that is capable of future-proofing your facilities, with options for Direct Coupling® of PV arrays or other alternative energy options. With simple gateways for alternative energy—minimizing the energy lost through unneeded and inefficient inversions—a high performance building can be designed with a more flexible and energy efficient lighting system that also better adapts to changing technology in lighting.
Finally, high performance buildings must support or allow the user to make quick changes to lighting fixtures. With safe Class 2 DC power, fixtures are not only more efficient, but are easily changed within a drop ceiling or open architecture. With savings of up to 30% from new efficient DC lighting system strategies, and the flexibility to support the changing demographics of today’s workforce, high performance buildings can deliver like never before.
Let’s face it, until I got this job the only time I ever thought about energy was when I didn’t have it, and with my yard full of tall trees, that happens more than I’d like between April and November.
I don’t think that makes me different from most Americans. As I’ve matured I have become more aware of my consumption…turning off lights, unpluging appliances that aren’t in use, switching to CF light bulbs and don’t even get me started on my composting, recycling and buying local habits. Then I got this job and by “this job” I mean my job assisting the CEO of Nextek Power Systems. Suddenly I was keenly aware that not only do I not think about energy, but I knew nothing about energy either.
My first weeks here were spent Googling every other word uttered by my co-workers. What’s PV? Is a gigawatt a lot? AC vs. DC? Inverters? Thomas Edison? I hadn’t thought about him since middle school! It’s been 6 months and I am building a vocabulary, but most importantly I am building a tremendous amount of respect for energy.
There is this worldwide conversation going on about the benefits of DC energy, it started as a murmur and it’s revving up to be a full-blown roar soon. It’s not just a conversation for environmentalists or third-world countries either, it’s a conversation with global corporate leaders, former United States presidents, utility companies and governments. I think we’ve really got something special going on here and I know that we are standing on the verge of something huge.
These next couple of years are going to be an incredible journey, one I hope you’ll join us on. Become part of the conversation, start your own adventure in energy…
I know I’m glad I did.
This week I had the pleasure of going to New York City to attend the exciting and innovative LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) — North America’s premier annual lighting industry event for architectural and commercial lighting products and services.
Over 20,000 design, lighting, architectural, engineering and industry professionals from around the world were there exhibiting their latest and greatest contributions to the world of lighting. And as you can imagine, many of the newest lighting strategies and products are focused on efficiency, adaptability and of course, sustainability.
Global leader in high-efficiency lighting and EMerge Alliance founding member, OSRAM Sylvania was there to showcase its newest lighting and solid state products — and the new EMerge system — which runs on efficient, low-cost, low-voltage DC power.
Naturally we at Nextek were also there, in the OSRAM Sylvania exhibit, to promote the EMerge Alliance mission of developing a global standard that integrates interior infrastructures, power, controls and a wide variety of peripheral devices, such as lighting, in a common DC platform. This is because DC power provides building owners with unprecedented design and space flexibility, lower energy costs and greater long-term sustainability.
Other EMerge Alliance members were there too: Acuity Brands Lighting, Crestron Electronics, Eden Park Illumination, EnOcean Alliance, Lighting Science Group, Sensor Switch, Tyco Electronics and Watt Stopper / LeGrand.
Of course before we can begin paving the way for smarter, more efficient office spaces that employ DC power strategies, renewables and innovative products (like the kinds we’ve seen here at LFI), it is critical that we quickly establish a global standard for common DC platforms. This is what we on the EMerge Alliance are promoting, because clean DC power is a much cheaper, safer and greener way to conduct electricity.
Some of you may have been at the Javits Convention Center to see OSRAM Sylvania’s demonstration of EMerge in action. If you were there, what did you think? If you weren’t there, but are intrigued by DC power strategies, we’d love to hear from you — so please feel free to weigh in (via the Nextek Blog at www.nextekpower.com) and provide us with your thoughts on the rapid adoption of safe, low voltage DC power distribution for use in commercial building interiors.
P.S. Next week Nextek will be attending the Michigan Green Jobs Initiative – check back here to find out how we’re partnering with the state and others to embrace the new green economy that will add lucrative jobs to the area.
What do you think would have happened if, a hundred years ago, someone had invented a DC Power Transformer? Direct Current power in, electricity out — any voltage, current, frequency, and phase.
Would we have a DC Grid? A system where high voltage DC would be transmitted over the grid we have today, inverting power to AC when required by the occasional motor or AC load.
Perhaps, but in any case, today we have an AC grid, with a zillion little rectifiers loitering at its edges. Yes, a zillion. Every television, computer, cellphone, microwave, fluorescent lighting ballast, cordless phone. A zillion. And they’re each sucking up a watt or two, often 24 hrs a day. Arthur Rosenfeld, head of the California Energy Commission, calls them our Energy Vampires.
And what’s more, near the edge of the grid where these rectifiers convert from AC to DC to power our electronics, we’re installing DC generators; solar photovoltaic cells, wind generators, fuel cells, and batteries. Each of these produces clean direct current, which we spend energy inverting to alternating current, synchronizing, avoiding islanding, and sending it into a transmission and distribution system that this rife with losses.
Finally, before it’s used, this inverted power is rectified again, back to its original DC form. This round-trip journey to nowhere is expensive. The rectifiers were built with only economy in mind. They’re cheap, hot, and inefficient.
So what?s going to happen?
First, centralized rectification. One rectifier, probably at the building’s service entrance, will provide DC power through a separate, or even the same electrical systems. Currently, commercial fluorescent lighting systems powered by DC have a separate DC wiring system. It’s easy to convert the AC lighting system wiring to DC. In the future, we’ll see wiring systems that provide AC through the hot and neutral wires, DC through the neutral and ground. The patented outlet for this already exists.
The Nextek Power Gateway is such a centralized rectification system that takes power first from its DC buss, powered by locally generated energy (like solar photovoltaic), then, as needed, from the AC grid, rectifying only what’s needed when clouds pass overhead or at night. An additional advantage of this architecture is that the system is not subject to anti-islanding laws and can continue to power the load during a power failure. For more information see the www.NextekPower.com or www.DirectCoupling.com.
Second, the Universal Transformer. In development now are several designs for a solid state transformer that will provide whatever power is needed, at whatever frequency. The efficiency and flexibility of this device will cause dramatic improvements in the energy profile of the grid.
Next, the DC Grid. The feasibility and the necessity of a DC transmission system is an unresolved topic but there are significant benefits involved. These will be better outlined in an upcoming white paper soon to be released by EPRI.
The battle between AC and DC was originally fought by Edison and Westinghouse at the turn of the century. The invention of the AC transformer allowed Westinghouse to build the power plant at Niagara Falls in contrast to Edison’s backyard generators. Westinghouse won, but Edison was Right.
Mark Robinson is VP Sales & Marketing for Nextek Power Systems of Long Island, NY. He is a licensed master electrician and a Microsoft Certified Engineer. Nextek Power Systems provides their Power Gateways to commercial buildings to power lighting systems and Variable Frequency Motor Drives with clean DC from locally generated sources.
By Mark Robinson