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EMerge Alliance Expands Its Focus to include Homes and Small Businesses

The EMerge® Alliance has long promoted direct-current (DC) power distribution standards for buildings. The organization (of which Nextek is a founding member) has announced the launch of a new residential DC power standards initiative to advance the use of DC power in homes and small businesses. As the number and percentage of semiconductor-based devices, which run only on DC power, continue to grow, it only makes sense to find ways to connect them to DC power sources. This would eliminate conversion of AC power to DC, which results in power loss to heat.

The residential initiative will also include hybrid use of alternating current (AC) and DC power by defining interfaces with existing AC power systems at various points in the system. The goal of the approach is to provide plug-and-play DC convenience for homes and small businesses for such uses as personal electronics and home automation equipment, as well as EV charging and direct support of the expanding use of USB, wireless charging and other low-voltage DC power distribution methods.

According to EMerge® Alliance Chairman Brian Patterson, the increasing percentage of home electronics running on DC power, combined with the rapid expansion of the residential solar market in the U.S., makes DC power distribution a clear opportunity for homes to achieve energy savings and grid independence. “We have seen the sustainability, flexibility and reliability advantages that DC power provides to commercial building spaces, and it’s time to extend these benefits to homes and small businesses,” Patterson said. “DC power distribution would not only maximize the efficiency and ROI of rooftop solar panels by enabling them to directly power consumer electronics, appliances, LEDs and electric vehicles (EVs) without conversion losses, it could also give homeowners a choice to either store excess DC power or continue selling it back to power companies.”

The Alliance will next form a technical committee to identify needs and opportunities for residential DC power standards. EMerge® Alliance members will collaborate with organizations like IEEE, the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology, and NextEnergy Center’s NextHome, a DC-connected house demonstration project, to determine best practices for implementation.

The EMerge® Alliance is an open industry association leading the rapid adoption of safe direct-current (DC) power distribution standards for buildings. The Alliance is the only application standards development group working on advancing the use of DC power in residential and commercial buildings.



New UL/ULC Standards Open the Door for Greater Use of Low-Voltage Direct Current Systems

In a step forward for the Direct Current industry, The National Electrical Code (NEC) will publish standards for Low Voltage Suspended Ceiling Power Distribution Systems in 2014. Both the U.S. and Canada’s Underwriters Laboratories are working to harmonize the standards in both countries.

The standards will be contained in NEC Article 393, and will include those for low voltage peripheral equipment certified for use with the grid systems. Previously, only standards for lighting equipment were referenced. The move is partly due to efforts by the EMerge Alliance®, an industry association dedicated to the adoption of new standards for DC power distribution within commercial buildings. Nextek Power Systems is a member of their Governing Board.

The new standards open the door for both developers and users to implement a variety of systems and equipment, such as security systems, audio speakers, and HVAC controls into the commercial building environment.

In conjunction, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has updated and published the UL 2577 Outline of Investigation to expand its scope to allow for other low voltage peripheral equipment to be certified for use with the grid systems. That organization, which has standards development organization status in the U.S., will now work with its Canadian affiliate, ULC, to harmonize standards, since both countries have the ability to use low-voltage grid systems.

Low voltage suspended ceiling power distribution systems, now known as DC FlexZone Systems, were developed by Armstrong Industries in 2008. They send low-voltage (24VDC, which is safe to the touch) power directly through the grid, in lieu of wires. Equipment such as luminaires can simply be placed into the grid, and moved to different locations, without the need for expensive and time consuming rewiring.



Technology You Can Bank On

When PNC Financial decided to push farther than the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification for their model net-zero energy branch in Fort Lauderdale, the goal was high: 50% energy savings and the same or better comfort for staff and customers as compared to PNC’s 2500+ branches. 

Thanks to solar panels on the roof and walkways, the building actually generates more electricity than it uses, sending the surplus to the grid.  Sending excess power back to the grid is possible thanks to careful design and planning the company carried out with its architect, Gensler and green building consultants CJL Engineering and Paladino & Company.

PNC Financial specified a direct current (dc) power system from Nextek Power Systems to significantly increase the efficiency of their lighting system and its use of renewable energy generated at the building site. Nextek’s innovative Direct Coupling® platform eliminates wasteful power conversions inherent in conventional systems.  "This is another example of PNC's commitment to innovation and energy efficiency," said Gary Saulson , PNC's director of Corporate Real Estate. "We expect the net-zero energy branch to spur business growth and development in the area.  Ultimately, we hope it will inspire other businesses to adopt similar green building practices."

Most of the lighting in this PNC Bank branch is connected to the Nextek patented dc microgrid that uses the solar power before it gets converted into grid-compatible ac power.  This allows the power generated at the site to be used avoiding two conversions:  one from dc (solar) to ac (the grid), as well as from ac (the grid) back to dc (the electronic light fixture) amounting to a large integrated efficiency improvement.  When the sun’s not shining, the dc microgrid powers itself by converting the grid power into dc at higher efficiency than any single device can accomplish affordably on its own.  For more, see the video AC or DC Power?

Nextek CEO Paul Savage says PNC Financial’s use of dc microgrid technology represents a growing trend in net-zero energy building design. “In today’s competitive marketplace it is not enough to install solar panels on the roof and put a plaque on the door announcing you’re sustainable.  Thoughtful design that reduces the building’s power requirement first is what’s needed, and that’s what PNC is doing.”  By connecting the clean dc power generated by the sun to dc consuming lighting inside the building, and adding daylight harvesting and other control strategies, the branch’s lighting will consume 70% less power from the grid.

PNC Bank is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (  PNC (NYSE: PNC) is one of the nation’s largest diversified financial services organizations providing retail and business banking; residential mortgage banking; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management.  Follow @PNCNews on Twitter for breaking news, updates and announcements from PNC.

Nextek Power Systems is a pioneer in the invention, design and sales of Direct Coupling® power systems for buildings. These dc microgrids minimize the consumption of grid power, and provide an optimized path for distributed renewable resources like solar PV to do more work. Efficient, flexible and reliable, Nextek Power Systems are saving money for diverse customers around the world. Find out more at

The EMerge Alliance is an open industry association leading the rapid adoption of safe DC power distribution in commercial buildings through the development of EMerge Alliance standards. These innovative standards integrate infrastructures, power, controls and devices in a common microgrid platform to facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power throughout buildings for unprecedented design and space flexibility, greater energy efficiency and improved sustainability. The nonprofit Alliance is accepting new members at various levels. For more information, please visit



EMerge Alliance® Members Philips and Armstrong Ceilings Partner to Develop Lighting Solutions

EMerge Alliance® members Philips and Armstrong Ceilings have partnered to develop complete building lighting solutions that will accelerate the adoption of low-voltage Direct Current (DC) technologies. The solutions will be compatible with Armstrong’s DC FlexZone ceiling systems, a plug-and-play design that allows for maximum design flexibility and efficiency. FlexZone ceiling designs (as well as virtually all DC uses) integrate perfectly into Nextek Power Systems Direct Coupling® microgrid systems, which connect a variety of renewable power resources to building loads, without the usual power loss associated with inversion to AC power and the subsequent rectification back to DC.

A major advantage of such a system, as noted in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, is its independence from the AC grid. Buildings sat without electrical power for days or weeks after the storm. DC Microgrid systems can operate both in conjunction with the grid, or, when necessary, in a completely stand-alone mode.

For more information about how a DC microgrid can work in your business environment, contact Nextek Power Systems at

For more information about Armstrong’s DC FlexZone ceiling systems, see

For information about the EMerge Alliance® see



Nextek Power Systems Partners with Leading Technology and Energy Providers to Build China’s First Direct-Current Microgrid

Nextek Power Systems has announced a partnership with the School of Energy Research at Xiamen University, and several other technology companies, to create the first direct-current powered commercial building in China. Nextek joins Canadian Solar, Intel Corporation, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and People Power Company in the collaborative effort, which is designed to showcase technology that will change the way China manages, controls and consumes energy. The project will integrate renewable energy sources and storage batteries to serve building electrical loads through one-touch mobile and web-based energy management systems and controls.

This effort is especially significant because Chinese building energy consumption methods, if unchanged, could account for 20 percent of the world’s 2020 global coal consumption, according to the National Resources Defense Council. New Chinese building energy codes call for at least 50 percent energy savings at less than a 10 percent cost increase, compared to existing building costs.

Nextek Power Systems’ role will be to introduce the first Direct Coupling® Microgrid in mainland China that will incorporate diverse energy loads such as direct-current lighting, air conditioning, data centers, electrical vehicle charging and building plug loads.

“Nextek Power Systems is delighted to be working with our friends at LBNL, Intel, People Power Company, Canadian Solar and Xiamen University to field our first significant installation in the country,” said Paul Savage, CEO of Nextek Power Systems. “We think the opportunities that will spring from this are endless.”

People Power Company will provide cloud-based energy management, control and behavioral analytics applications that will enable building managers to control and manage building loads. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will develop methods and algorithms for the optimal equipment choice and operation of direct-current microgrids. Canadian Solar will provide customized solar panels for this rooftop solar system and Intel will provide technical expertise and advice on the research


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Nextek Power Systems Participates In USGBC Upgrade

Recently, Nextek Power Systems was part of a team of companies that partnered to provide a highly efficient, low-voltage DC power grid system to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Grid systems distribute and manage low-voltage DC power to lighting fixtures, sensors and other electrical devices, and are so safe and flexible, they allow for the repurposing and reconfiguration of spaces without the need to rewire.

Because they are direct current, grid systems can utilize renewable energy sources, in particular solar. They also tie in to advanced controls and LED lighting, which makes operation of devices more energy efficient and easier to manage.

The USGBC project was a collaborative effort among Nextek and other industry leaders including Armstrong whose Ceiling & Wall Systems’ DC FlexZone Grid System was the platform for the technology. Nextek Power Systems manufactured the power supply modules for use in the system, Crestron Electronics provided lighting control systems  and TE Connectivity provided structured cabling and interconnects.

The DC FlexZone Grid System is a pre-engineered ceiling suspension system that provides a ready infrastructure for the delivery of low-voltage direct current power.

Nextek, Armstrong and their partners are all members of the EMerge Alliance®, an industry association that promotes the adoption of safe DC power distribution standards and use throughout commercial buildings.

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Spear Point Energy is Thrilled with Their New DC Flexzone Ceiling

Spear Point Energy, LLC recently installed an Armstrong DC FlexZone ceiling in their Colorado corporate headquarters. Spear Point Energy, LLC is a US based company with offices in Colorado, California and Utah. The company’s principals have diverse backgrounds and experience including real estate acquisition and development, power project finance and development, carbon markets, and emerging efficiency technologies. The founders, Sam Houston, Bob McClenachan, and Todd Mitchell, had the vision to create a company focused on developing and financing solar based electric generation systems as part of the growing global trend towards a diverse energy economy. The Spear Point Energy team is committed to the goal of localized electricity production through solar projects that realize economic benefit for their clients, consumers, partners and investors. Through strategic relationships, experience based knowledge, qualified personnel, and a creative forward thinking approach, Spear Point Energy is able to achieve this.



Connectivity Week 2010, Santa Clara, California

Connectivity Week is a collection of events that together focus on the application of Information Technology (IT) on the energy challenges facing the world, challenges as illustrated by climate change and the need for sustainability. Spanning all the major industries and energy consumption areas of commercial, residential, industrial and infrastructure, conference sessions at Connectivity Week explore how IT can be leveraged towards the new energy paradigm facing the world.

Also located at Connectivity Week are a conference and an exposition on key enabling technologies and applications required to make the future energy vision a reality.

Designed for government planners, technology companies, facility developers and owners, consultants and academia – Connectivity Week is an opportunity for stakeholders to network, share “best practices” and develop ideas to solve the world’s energy issues.

Our own Liang Downey was there for the week taking in all of the sights and sounds. According to Liang she often heard “DC power? Yes, I’ve heard of that and it makes sense!” She said it was an incredible opportunity to meet, network and discuss future partnerships. Much is being done in the energy sustainability arena and it’s an exciting time to be involved.



Nextek to Support the IEEE Humanitarian Technology Challenge Initiative

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. Led by a group of IEEE volunteers working with Engineers Without Borders, Nextek Power Systems will be helping to provide renewable energy to Haiti and other disadvantaged regions in the world. Nextek has committed to donate our NPS1000 Power Modules and associated hardware that have been specifically modified to support the initiative in Haiti. The long-term goal is to create economically and environmentally sustainable energy, as well as build an entrepreneurial renewable energy industry in these developing and disadvantaged areas.



Nextek Power Systems Appoints Advertising and Communications Agency

Nextek Power Systems has appointed JWT Worldwide (formerly the J. Walter Thompson Company) as its advertising and brand communications agency.  JWT Worldwide has over 145 years of marketing experience and its clients include global brand leaders like Nike, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, Nestle, Unilever and thousands more globally.  We are looking forward to working with them on our first project, a press release launching the EMerge Alliance.



Fascinating Lecture by Thomas Friedman

I was glad to join Debra Jacobson, the Co-Director of the George Washington University Solar Institute, at Thomas Friedman’s lecture on her campus last week. Friedman, a New York Times Columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author based his talk on his book Hot, Flat and Crowded and focused on the need for an Energy Technology (ET) Revolution. This, he says, needs to be forceful and eventful, like the IT revolution was, leaving companies like the Digital Equipment Corporation in its wake. He argues that there needs to be, necessarily, stranded ideas and assets in this revolution, like old utility business models and a few veins of coal, I am guessing. The force of Mr. Friedman’s talk was exciting for me because it’s sounds like a good preamble to our business plan to bring solar PV to commodity use through DC Microgrids. Higher efficiency for renewables and stored power, greater independence and choice for customers, benefits for the grid as it’s designed today are all consequences of this shift, which sounds like a revolution to me. Guest Blogger: Paul Savage, CEO, Nextek Power Systems