November 2014

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Brian PattersonEMAIL INTERVIEWBrian Patterson and Ken Sinclair

Brian Patterson, President, EMerge Alliance

Brian Patterson is the president of the EMerge Alliance, a 501c nonprofit network of more than 90 organizations reinventing electric power through the development of forward-thinking standards for the highly efficient use of hybrid AC/DC power in a variety of buildings. These standards focus on delivering DC power directly to digital electronics and power storage systems, simplifying the use of locally produced clean energy and making systems more flexible, resilient and sustainable.

The EMerge Alliance

Expanding our ecosystem of engineering, hardware and integration providers who can support our standards with recognized and listed offerings in the marketplace continues to be one of the top priorities of the EMerge Alliance.

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SinclairWhat’s new with the EMerge Alliance since we last spoke?

Patterson:  The EMerge Alliance has been hard at work since our last interview. We’ve launched a residential DC Power initiative, expanded our membership into South Asia by offering a new membership category and, most recently, unveiled the world’s first Net Zero Zone at the 2014 Greenbuild International Conference.

SinclairVery exciting.  Please tell us a little more about the Net Zero Zone.

Patterson:  The EMerge Alliance partnered with Hanley Wood and the U.S. Green Building Council to unveil the world’s first Net Zero Zone at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in New Orleans, Oct. 22- 24. The launch of the Net Zero Zone marked the first time a conference and expo had exhibition space in which booths were fully powered by an on-site microgrid. This important milestone not only sends a strong message to the entire green building movement, but is tangible proof that hybrid power in buildings is both possible and practical.

Designed using EMerge Alliance standards for the hybrid use of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power in buildings, the Net Zero Zone showcased the efficiency, reliability and resiliency of hybrid microgrids – systems of local electric power generation, storage and distribution that can operate either in combination with the local utility grid or in isolation from it. Booths in the Net Zero Zone demonstrated the seamless capability of autonomously operating both on, off and in combination with the local utility grid.

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A Nextek Power Systems DC microgrid with solar power on the balcony of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans

SinclairWith the unveiling of the Net Zero Zone, what do you think will happen to the future of hybrid AC/DC power technology?

Patterson:  As I mentioned before, the Net Zero Zone offers tangible proof that hybrid power in buildings is both possible and practical. While we have nearly 50 installations of hybrid AC/DC microgrids in operation around the globe, including a Steel Orca data center in Princeton, NJ, the NextEnergy Center research facility in Detroit and the State of Michigan’s Treasury building in Flint, Mich., this is the first time we have had an opportunity to demonstrate the technology in action in a public setting. 

Our end goal has been to create a more resilient and sustainable infrastructure for electric power in the same way the Internet created such an infrastructure for data, and we believe that the Net Zero Zone is an important step toward raising awareness among the green building community. We’re planning to have an even larger Net Zero Zone presence at Greenbuild 2015 in D.C.

SinclairYou mentioned that the EMerge Alliance also has expanded its footprint into South Asia. What exactly was the purpose for the expansion and what does this mean for the Alliance in terms of overall global expansion?

Patterson:  Global expansion has always been a goal of ours. As you well know, the EMerge Alliance has been advancing DC microgrids in the U.S. since 2008 to improve the way buildings and the devices therein are powered. When looking for ways that we could expand beyond our borders, we immediately saw South Asia as a likely place to begin.

South Asia has one of the highest incidences of grid failure in the industrialized world due to the region’s lack of supply to match demand resulting from its high industrial, economic and population growth. By advocating for and advancing the use of off-grid DC microgrids, we believe that we can help develop a solution to many of the supply and demand interruption problems that currently exist in un-served, rural, low-income populations in the region.

Through the EMerge Alliance South Asian Industrializing Region (EASAIR) chapter, we are able to offer four levels of regional membership under the new Industrializing membership category.

This is crucial because we are now able to work with individuals who have just as much of a passion as we do for providing electricity to those who otherwise would be without.

SinclairWhat does the future look like for the Alliance in fulfilling your vision for reinventing electric power and developing standards for the highly efficient use of DC power in a variety of buildings?

Patterson:  We have achieved a great deal of success in advancing our vision, which we attribute to the hard work of our members.

contemporary The EMerge Alliance continues to work toward completing new DC power standards to achieve net-zero-energy buildings. The EMerge Alliance Occupied Space Standard creates an integrated, open platform for power, interior infrastructures, controls and a wide variety of peripheral devices to facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power within commercial buildings. The EMerge Alliance Data/Telecom Center Standard provides a practical guide for the hybrid use of DC power in data centers, offering improved reliability and efficiency, smaller footprint, and lower capital and installation costs.

Currently in development, the Campus Microgrid Standard will focus on the integration of DC microgrids throughout whole buildings and the Task Level/Furnishings Standard will define DC power use at the desktop. Moving forward, the Alliance recently announced the beginning of work on standards for residential buildings and plans to continue its vision by developing standards for building services, such as HVAC, and standards for outdoor applications like electric vehicle charging in the near future.

As we look to the future, we will continue to identify ways in which we can build upon our membership. Expanding our ecosystem of engineering, hardware and integration providers who can support our standards with recognized and listed offerings in the marketplace continues to be one of the top priorities of the EMerge Alliance. 

For more information about membership, visit


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