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Commercial buildings account for roughly half of our nation’s overall energy consumption. Since our founding, The Alliance Center (TAC) has explored ways to reduce the building sector’s contribution to our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by serving as a model for high-performance building innovation.

We are thrilled to be piloting the Direct Current (DC) Microgrid Project as another way for buildings to reduce their negative impact on climate change. Our Direct Current (DC) Microgrid Project is a way for our building to reduce our negative impact on climate change. The microgrid makes it possible for us to take energy directly from our energy generators and use it to power our building. While typically energy from generators like solar panels has to be converted from DC to Alternate Current (AC) and back again, the microgrid removes the need for all this converting.

The solar panels are on our roof, the highly-efficient batteries are in our basement, and the necessary equipment to power DC lights and plugs are in our first-floor suite… but why DC?

WHY DIRECT CURRENT?

Direct Current (DC) technologies open the possibility to:

  • Save Energy and Money. Many pieces of equipment (LED lights, mechanical components, laptops, TVs, etc.) are native to direct current.  That hot bulky thing on your laptops power cord is converting alternating current (from the grid) to direct current.  That heat is the energy lost from the conversion, so removing the need for these adaptors/conversion reduces the energy consumed.  This saves energy, money and greenhouse gases generated from our electrical grid.
  • Provide Resiliency.  A DC Microgrid can keep key systems operational during power outages or issues with the wider electrical grid.  This offers benefits for both short term interruptions as well as larger scale outages (natural disasters, severe storms, terrorist attacks, etc).

GOALS FOR OUR
DC MICROGRID PROJECT

While DC microgrids have significant potential, questions remain before they can scale in the commercial building sector.  For example, native DC equipment currently comprises over 50 percent of a building’s energy usage, while reported energy savings from DC distribution varies by up to 40 percent.

We are piloting DC microgrid technology and collaborating with industry thought leaders to highlight the barriers to and potential of the adoption of DC Microgrids in the commercial building sector.

We are specifically working with our partners to:

  • Field test DC distribution equipment to provide the wider market with the real world data needed to evaluate the potential of deploying DC microgrids
  • Identify the technical and operational limitations preventing the wider adoption of DC distribution.
  • Provide a real-world test of a DC Microgrid’s actual efficiency gains and corresponding energy savings going straight from DC generation (solar in our case) to native DC equipment

PROJECT MILESTONES

  • Early Discussions – 2014
  • Collaboration efforts begin – 2015
  • DC installation design efforts begin – 2015
  • Data collection begins for AC network for baseline comparisons – 2016
  • Formal plans submitted to City of Denver – 2016
  • Construction begins – August 2017
  • System testing begins – December 2017 (ongoing)
  • System operational and collecting data – Upcoming

Please stay tuned! We will be sharing more information about the project and our findings in the coming months.