Changes in Electricity Usage Make Direct Current Distribution Systems Inevitable

When Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse convinced the nation that alternating current was the best delivery system for electricity, there were no such things as semiconductors or computer chips. But that was over 100 years ago. According to an article on the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch web site, as much as 80 percent of the end-uses in today’s consumer market incorporate semiconductor-based technology. And semi-conductors must be powered by direct current. Currently, most electric power produced in the nation, whether from coal, oil or hydro is inverted to AC and transmitted through the power grid to homes and businesses. But for each device that needs DC power, the electricity must be re-converted back to DC, which means power loss at both ends of the process, as much as 30 percent or more.

The technology industry, spurred by this usage trend, has focused on development of DC distribution systems, especially at the mid range voltage level (mostly at 380-400VDC), which is where most of the use will be. The result, according to a new report from Navigant Research, is that “the total worldwide capacity of DC distribution networks will surpass 2.3 gigawatts (GW) by 2025, up from just 196 megawatts (MW) in 2013.”

The company has prepared a report, “Direct Current Distribution Networks,” which provides a review of key market and technology trends with DC. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.