In the early 1900s Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla battled over which electrical system would power the nation. Edison believed in Direct Current and Tesla was a proponent of Alternating Current. Ulitimately, AC won because it could be transmitted over long distances, while DC power degraded after less than a mile. But recent advancements in DC technology may ultimately reverse that century-old decision.
AC power has its drawbacks. Its extremely high voltages and amperages make it dangerous to handle. The ever-expanding use of semi conductors in most of the appliances and equipment we use today, which only use DC, means AC power must be converted, and that process causes up to a 30% power loss, mostly through heat. In addition, worldwide concern over depleting resources like oil and coal, which are used to create electricity, has industries and governments looking towards renewable sources for power creation, such as solar, wind and biofuels, all of which produce DC.
DC’s ability to run on renewable energy sources is also attractive to facilities that need to operate in “island mode,” independent of the AC grid, in case of a supply failure or for the purpose of energy security. Building systems that incorporate small, self-contained electricity distribution networks known as microgrids are also of interest to governments and especially military installations that worry about terrorist attacks.
The growing DC industry, of which Nextek Power Systems, Inc. is a proud member, has made significant progress in creating equipment and systems that save not only valuable resources, but also energy expenses for the businesses and organizations that use them. A recent Nextek demonstration project at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona showed how DC power could save the Army base in energy costs now, and save millions of dollars in the future by avoiding reconfiguration costs thanks to the DC system’s flexibility compared to AC. Additionally, because the installation uses renewable energy created at the site, it is not at the mercy of the AC grid for its power.
Past problems with transmission have been solved too, as the recent installation of DC power systems, covering hundreds of miles, have been seen in Europe and China. In the not too distant future DC power may be the dominant mode of electrical transmission, and Thomas Edison may regain his stature as the king of electricity.