Brian Patterson and Ken
Brian Patterson, Chairman, The EMerge Alliance
The EMerge Alliance is a 501c
non-profit corporation established to create standards and promote the
rapid adoption of safe, low-voltage DC power distribution and use in
commercial buildings. The Alliance is a member funded organization
focused on developing open standards that integrate infrastructures,
power, controls and a wide variety of devices in a common hybrid AC-DC
microgrid platform. Brian is also General Manager of Business Development
for the Building Products Division of Armstrong World Industries, one
of the original founders of the Alliance.
EMerge Alliance Update
We continue to make
progress toward the vision of DC power throughout buildings.
Sinclair: What has the EMerge Alliance been up to recently?
The Alliance participated in the GreenBuild International Conference
& Expo in Toronto, Oct. 4-7. The booth (#4739S) illustrated the
first multi-level DC power demonstration ever to illustrate the hybrid
AC-DC power concept for a building. The display featured a DC ceiling
cloud demo market-available products as well as DC-powered desktop
concepts for commercial interior type spaces. It also highlighted a DC
data center application that provided a side-by-side look at the
benefits of using DC versus AC to power an Intel server by minimizing
typical conversion losses. The display also showed how DC power can be
incorporated outside buildings with on-site solar panels and electric
vehicle charging. A total of 16 EMerge Alliance members exhibited in
What milestones have you achieved since your launch in 2008?
The Alliance completed its standard for the occupied space, which calls
for using 24VDC at the user interface and has since registered 42
products that are now commercially available to support this EMerge
Alliance Standard. We established another technical committee to
develop a DC standard for data and telecommunication centers, which
will call for using 380VDC as its main distribution voltage. Alliance
members have helped to deploy more than 15 demonstration sites across
the country incorporating DC applications for interiors and data
centers, and EMerge Alliance registered products are now being
specified and used in commercial interior projects. We continue to make
progress toward the vision of DC power throughout buildings.
What does your membership look like today?
Now more than 80 members strong, the EMerge Alliance represents a broad
spectrum of the commercial and green building industry, including
product manufacturers, architects, building owners and developers,
lighting designers and engineering firms, environmental consultants,
utilities, other codes and standards bodies, government agencies and
related academic and industry groups.
Since our launch, we’ve added three membership tiers (Liaison,
Corresponding and General Members), as well as an Advisory Council made
up of 13 individual industry experts and representatives. From Intel,
ABB, Juniper Networks, Emerson and GE Energy, to Underwriters
Laboratories, university centers and NEMA, our membership continues to
grow in support of DC power for greener buildings.
Why should commercial buildings be interested in adopting DC power
distribution instead of relying solely on AC power? What does the level
of interest look like today in this area?
Today commercial buildings use between 33-50% of all AC electricity produced and distributed by public utilities in the U.S.
These same buildings also use a majority of digital electronic devices
that are inherently DC powered. This means that most AC power must be
converted to DC at the device level to power equipment like electronic
lighting ballasts, solid state lighting (i.e. LEDs), lighting sensors
and controls, HVAC controls, variable frequency drives and actuators,
and assorted computer/IT equipment.
The increasing amount of native DC power generated from renewable
energy sources like solar or wind must also be converted to AC
electricity to be compatible with existing AC distribution methods.
These conversions, in both directions, result in significant losses of
electricity and associated wasted energy. They also add to the
complexity and reduced reliability of the overall electrical system.
Efforts to create a Smart Grid need "smarter buildings" that use more
adaptable power infrastructures that can minimize these conversion
losses and make measuring and controlling power easier to help reduce
the overall load on our nation's energy resources, and make the use of
alternate clean energy generation more likely.
The answer is the hybrid use of DC power distribution, and we believe
that ongoing and increasing demand for improved reliability and energy
efficiency across all areas of commercial buildings provides the need
for our broad platform.
What are some particular areas of interest and opportunity with DC power distribution?
We are particularly seeing interest and opportunities for DC power
distribution in the nearest term in the following three areas:
Lighting Applications: In a DC power system, LEDs and new energy
efficient fluorescent lighting technologies can gain even greater
efficiency (approximately 5-15%) with increased upgradeability and
return on investment for users.
Data Centers: A study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
of a DC power system at a Duke Energy data center in Charlotte, North
Carolina, found that the DC system used 15% less electricity than the
existing AC power system. Total energy savings in small to mid-sized
data and telecommunications centers are estimated to reach from 10-30%.
Other benefits of DC in data centers include improved power quality,
reduced cooling needs, higher equipment densities, improved reliability
and more efficient integration of renewable energy.
On-Site Renewable Energy: By facilitating the integration of on-site DC
generation sources, such as solar photovoltaics, and other
renewable alternative sources, DC power distribution can help achieve
net zero energy buildings from cleaner energy sources.
What are your next steps in fulfilling your vision for DC power throughout a building?
Near term, the Alliance is focused on completing the data/telecom
center standard and registering products for data and
telecommunications centers, and then incorporating standards for
outdoor applications, which include electric vehicle charger interfaces
and building services, to achieve DC power throughout buildings.
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