– Brian Patterson and Ken
Patterson, Chairman, EMerge Alliance
Patterson is the Chairman of the EMerge Alliance, 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. He is also General Manager of Business Development
for the Building Products Division of Armstrong World Industries, one
of the original founders of the Alliance.
The EMerge Alliance
The new standard creates an integrated, open platform for power,
infrastructure, peripheral device and control applications to
facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power within data centers.
What’s new with the EMerge Alliance?
The EMerge Alliance just announced the completion of the EMerge
Alliance Data/Telecom Center Standard at the Greenbuild
Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Nov. 14-16. The new standard
creates an integrated, open platform for power, infrastructure,
peripheral device and control applications to facilitate the hybrid use
of AC and DC power within data centers and telecommunications central
What are the benefits of using 380VDC
to power data centers?
Using DC power distribution in data centers significantly improves
reliability and reduces equipment, floor space, maintenance and
operating costs. The costs are broken down further below:
- Lower infrastructure (including
equipment costs (CAPEX): DC power supplies and distribution gear
are simpler and require less space than their AC counterparts. This
results in generally lower capital expenditure and installation cost.
- Lower maintenance costs:
reducing the number of power conversions occurring in a data center, DC
power distribution reduces overall component content while decreasing
the amount of heat generated by the power distribution equipment, which
in turn lowers maintenance costs by reducing related equipment
- Lower operating costs
(OPEX): AC to DC
conversions, DC to AC conversions and unnecessary voltage conversions
consume energy and produce heat in a data center. By reducing the
number of these conversions, DC power distribution reduces energy and
cooling operating costs.
How does using DC power distribution in
data centers help increase reliability?
Since DC data center power distribution equipment has fewer components
than its AC counterparts, they suffer fewer device failures. DC
can be between 200% and 1,000% more reliable than AC, improving data
center reliability significantly. In addition, whole pieces of
distribution equipment, such as remote power panels, power distribution
units, static switches, second stage UPS conversion, and
UPS by-pass switches, can be eliminated, resulting in fewer points of
Why is the EMerge Alliance Data/Telecom
Center Standard set for 380VDC?
380VDC is considered as the global sweet spot for standardized
components with the best balance of economics and safety. These
standardized components are commonly used in power supply systems for
today’s computers, electric vehicles, solar power, etc. 380VDC is the
next generation for telecom applications, enhanced distribution
capabilities and improved sustainability with smaller bus and wire
sizes and reduced copper. As a practical matter, most AC input
power supplies used in servers and other data center ICT equipment have
a final stage DC bus at 380VDC, so most equipment on the market today
should be easily converted by OEMs.
How does the new standard work with the
other developed standards?
The EMerge Alliance Data/Telecom Center Standard was designed to
integrate with the Alliance’s other standards to form a family of
area-specific DC microgrids that, when interconnected by a supervising
DC microgrid, can create a resilient and versatile building or campus
energy network. All of the standards using DC power are designed to
help achieve net-zero-energy buildings and improve energy efficiency,
flexibility, reliability and sustainability throughout commercial
Can this DC architecture be scaled to
It can be scaled from a single data/telecom center to modular additions
and even to entire new or most existing buildings over time, utilizing
a DC microgrid distributed network topology. It generally does not
require the changing of a building’s basic AC feed or primary
distribution system during an opportunistic, modular or evolutionary
scaled implementation. The integration of on-site renewable or
other energy sources at anytime is also easier to accomplish due to the
non-synchronous nature of the DC bus power architecture.
How do EMerge Alliance standards, such
as the Data/Telcom Center Standard, fit into smart grid efforts?
Smart grids benefit from “smarter buildings” and vice-versa. Use of
EMerge Alliance Standards provides the opportunity to optimize local
power use within buildings while still being connected to the macro
grid. The 100-year-old public utility grid, whose general success is a
tribute to power engineering, was never designed to power today’s
modern electronic devices and systems. Because they can
electrically isolate or island a system, building or campus from macro
grid disturbances, DC microgrids perform a fundamental role in
increasing building-level power quality and assurance. And since the
EMerge Alliance is working to use the same wireless control technology
platforms utilized in smart grid efforts, this will allow for future
integration opportunities in combined control and/or power management.
This will allow buildings to better use intelligent data from the smart
grid to minimize energy use during high cost - low availability times
and to avoid contributing to linear dynamic grid failure propagation
during power outages and other emergency grid events.
How does DC power distribution tie into
on-site power generation?
DC power collection and distribution systems simplify the use of
locally generated power from sources such as solar panels, wind
turbines and fuel cells. The non-synchronous operation of a DC bus
provides a simple yet effective integration of either AC or DC on-site
generated and/or stored energy. This results in the direct
delivery of easily dispatchable DC power, no matter how many different
sources are combined.
The diagram above
illustrates how the EMerge Alliance Data/Telecom
Standard is used as a system to deliver DC power from on-site renewable
energy sources or utility supplied AC power directly to data and
What other key standards, milestones
and accomplishments has the Alliance achieved this year?
We believe that we will soon look back on 2012 as a watershed year for
the EMerge Alliance. Today, the Alliance stands at more than 100
members with a broad range of interests represented, including building
owners, occupants, building trades, IT community and others involved in
the generation and utilization of both standard and alternative energy.
All of our members are contributing to the brightening vision of a
complete commercial buildings operated using DC power. DC power is a
key component in net-zero-energy buildings, and our growing
organization continues to make progress with standards for the occupied
space, data and telecommunications centers, building services, and
outdoor applications to achieve our vision.
This year, we formed two new technical
standards committees, including
the Task Level/Furnishings workgroup and Campus Microgrid Technical
Standards Committee. We started the Task Level/Furnishings workgroup to
create a standard bringing DC power directly to the desktop. When
finished, the standard will better optimize power use by the rising
number of DC-powered devices we use at our desktop everyday. The Campus
Microgrid Technical Standards Committee is focused on establishing a
standard for the interconnection of area-specific DC microgrids
throughout a building or campus.
In October, we also completed EMerge
Alliance Occupied Space Standard
version 1.1, including several important updates to voltage limits,
recommended cable sizes and other requirements to assist companies
developing products when using the standard. This development
illustrates our commitment to driving the continued improvement and
expansion of standards that will deliver DC power throughout buildings.
Sinclair: What does the future look like for the
Alliance in fulfilling your vision for DC power throughout a building?
Continuing to move toward our vision in the coming year means the
Alliance will sharpen its focus in several areas. First, in
addition to the technical committee work already in play, we will set
in motion the development of standards for building services, such as
HVAC, and standards for outdoor applications, such as electric vehicle
charging. Second, we will hone our effort toward
globalization. This means greater geographic and technical
representation in our leadership and work. Third, recognizing
that our application standards don’t exist in a vacuum, we continue to
heighten our efforts to “connect the dots” of collaboration and
cooperation with other relevant safety/technical standards and trade
organizations around the world. And lastly, we will continue to
build on our early work to actively coalesce a vibrant eco-system of
engineering, hardware and integration providers who can support our
standards with recognized and listed offerings in the
While we have accomplished much and look forward to another strong
growth year for the Alliance, we humble ourselves with the motivating
thought that there are still 1.5 billion people in the world without
electric power in their buildings. So in the largest sense, we
will not consider ourselves successful until there is meaningful and
productive access in those buildings to what has become the new primary
currency of modern civilization: clean electricity. As far as timing,
I’d like to borrow a thought from Edison’s conversation with Henry Ford
back in 1937, shortly before he died, “…I hope we don’t have to wait
until coal and oil run out…”
For further information regarding the
EMerge Alliance and GreenBuild read this December Review.
[Click Banner To Learn More]
[Home Page] [The
Automator] [About] [Subscribe