A grant from the State of Michigan provided funds for the conversion of the NextEnergy Center building in Detroit from AC to a Direct Current (DC) power distribution system. The scope of the effort included demon­stration of a unique solar panel that produces both thermal heating and photovoltaic (PV) power.

The project also called for providing the State of Michigan with a showplace for DC technology, and obtaining experience integrating solar and EMerge Alliance® systems.

The location is a 45,000 sf building in Detroit’s Tech Town, which encompasses eight laboratories, a showroom/atrium, an auditorium and office/meeting space.


Nextek was in charge of overall project management, engineering and subcontracting. Working with NextEnergy Center and Power Panel, we successfully converted lab and office space ceiling, lighting and fan systems to DC, rectified AC grid power to 380 VDC, and installed motion sensing and wireless lighting controls. In each of the eight lab spaces, two 1 kw metal halide fixtures were replaced with high-efficiency T8 fixtures to achieve a 43% energy savings while providing more and better distributed light. In the office space, luminaires were retrofitted with DC ballasts to maintain lighting levels with less power usage.

Additional system monitors were installed throughout, including an Amatis web monitoring system, which displays information on all power sources and loads simultaneously.

To handle power distribution in individual spaces, networks of Nextek Power Server Modules (PSMs) were installed in each space.

New 24V DC high bay fans were installed and connected to Nextek
PSM units in individual areas.


Since the building’s conversion, the photovoltaic panels provide the bulk of power to lighting, fans and other functions, at times more than 96% of the facility’s DC equipment energy needs.