Direct-current microgrids? China brings in global team for real-world implementation

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Quick Take: Researchers in the U.S. have looked at the idea of a direct-to-DC grid. Under this schema, power is not converted from DC to AC to deliver it, then converted back to DC for use in electronic gear. Instead, it stays DC the whole way. But most U.S. projects have concluded that the benefits do NOT outweigh problems and complications. Here is a Chinese group that thinks otherwise and that hopes to prove its point with a real-world build-out. – Jesse Berst

 

China's Xiamen University will have the country's first direct-current powered commercial building later this year according to an alliance announced this week that will construct and manage direct-current microgrids at the university's School of Energy Research.

March 19, 2012 12:58 ET

Xiamen University Partners With Leading Technology and Energy Providers to Build China's First Direct Current Microgrid

Canadian Solar, Intel Corporation, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Nextek Power Systems, People Power Company and Xiamen University Collaborate to Change the Way China Manages, Controls and Consumes Energy

 

 

XIAMEN, CHINA--(Marketwire - Mar 19, 2012) - Today at the Haixi International New Energy Industry Expo and Forum, Xiamen University, Nextek Power Systems, People Power Company, Canadian Solar, Intel Corporation and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) announced a ground-breaking alliance to construct and manage direct-current microgrids at the School of Energy Research in Xiamen University (SER-XMU). This microgrid will become operational this year and will make Xiamen University China's first direct-current powered commercial building, and will serve as a global showcase for distributed direct-current microgrid innovation and commercialization.

The Xiamen University's direct-current microgrid could change the way Chinese campuses and building complexes manage, control and consume energy by directly integrating renewable energy generation and storage batteries with building electrical loads through one-touch mobile and web-based energy management and control applications. This change is significant because of Chinese building energy consumption. According to the National Resource Defense Council, Chinese building consumption could account for 20 percent of the 2020 global coal consumption if China cannot reduce its building energy consumption.

Nextek Power Systems will introduce the first Direct Coupling® Microgrid in mainland China that will manage and support diverse energy loads such as direct-current lighting, air conditioning, data centers, electrical vehicle charging and building plug loads. People Power Company will provide its award-winning, cloud-based energy management, control and behavioral analytics applications that will enable building managers to control and manage buildings loads. LBNL will develop methods and algorithms for the optimal equipment choice and operation of direct-current microgrids. Canadian Solar will provide customized solar panels for this rooftop solar system and Intel will provide technical expertise and advise on this research.

The School of Energy Research in Xiamen University conducts research and develops technologies in Advanced Nuclear Energy, Solar Energy, Chemical Energy, Bio-energy, Energy Efficiency Engineering and Energy Economics. A 150kW solar system will be deployed on the rooftop of an engineering building. The School of Energy Research will work with partners to integrate state-of-art technologies into a showcase for energy efficiency and a platform for developing renewable energy applications.

"The Xiamen University Direct-Current Microgrid has the potential to transform building management because it can integrate DC power from renewable energy with many loads," stated Professor Fengyan Zhang of the School of Energy Research, Xiamen University. "This will enable building managers to reduce capital expenditures as well as operational costs over the life of their buildings."

"Nextek Power Systems is delighted to be working with our friends at LBNL, Intel, People Power Company, Canadian Solar and Xiamen University to field our first significant installation in the country," said Paul Savage, CEO of Nextek Power Systems. "We think the opportunities that will spring from this are endless."

People Power CEO Gene Wang added, "People Power is excited to join Intel, LBNL, Nextek and Xiamen University in showcasing how DC microgrids can transform conventional buildings into smarter buildings by adding compelling, cloud-based energy load demand management and user engagement programs. This innovation creates an exciting set of energy and workflow options for building managers and occupants."

The joint DC microgrid solution is important to China and building managers globally because of the significant energy savings and operational efficiency the solution will create. The new Chinese building energy codes call for at least 50 percent energy savings at less than a 10 percent cost increase, compared to existing building costs. DC microgrids provide an option to achieve these requirements because of the clean renewable energy adoption and behavioral energy building management controls that reduce energy consumption, significantly increase building efficiency and improve occupant comfort and productivity.

About Xiamen University
Xiamen University was founded in 1921 by Tan Kah Kee, the well-known patriotic overseas Chinese leader. At present, it is the only university in any of five special economic zones and is one of China's higher-level universities designated for the state key construction of the "211 Project" and the "985 Project." Currently, Professor Zhu Chongshi is the President of the University.

The School of Energy Research in Xiamen University (SER-XMU) was founded in September 2007. It is guided by the key energy technology demands of the nation and the economic development needs of the west coast of the Taiwan Strait. Through integration, introduction and improvement, aiming to build the school into a first-class new energy technology base in China for education, R&D and technology transfer.

SER-XMU consists of six institutes and centers: the Institute for Advanced Nuclear Energy, the Institute for Chemical Energy, the Institute for Bio-energy, the Institute for Solar Energy, the Institute for Energy Efficiency Engineering and the Center for Energy Economics Research. SER-XMU has integrated a group of high level experts including three members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the winners of the National Thousand Talents Program, one Cheung Kong Scholar, three of the winners of the China National Funds for Distinguished Young Scientists, and over 30 professors. SER-XMU has four Ph.D. programs in nuclear science and engineering, energy chemistry, photovoltaic engineering and energy economics.

About Nextek Power Systems
Nextek Power Systems, Inc. is a pioneer in direct current (DC) power networks for buildings. The Nextek Direct Coupling® power distribution platform delivers superior efficiency, flexibility and reliability to interior electrical circuits and on-site power generation. With 30 issued patents and over 50 installations in the US and around the world, Nextek demonstrates lower cost and higher efficiency benefits to Fortune 100 customers including Ford Motor Company, Frito-Lay and PNC Financial, and top-tier manufacturing partners like Philips Lighting. Nextek partners with sector-leading electrical goods and systems manufacturers to deliver Direct Coupling® technology inside their product offerings. Nextek promotes the establishment of a DC power standard with global leaders in building products, lighting and controls as a founding member of the Emerge Alliance®. Nextek is contracted by the US Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to deliver Direct Coupling® DC power innovations for Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems and Vehicle to Grid systems. Nextek collaborates with the Electrical Power Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and Sandia National Lab on DC Power projects. Nextek envisions a hybrid energy economy in which vehicles and buildings optimize and share a variety of energy sources through the development of micro-grid technologies. For more information see www.nextekpower.com

About People Power
People Power provides cloud-based energy efficiency services to residential and small business customers. Winner of AT&T's Power Your Future contest for the best energy management application and of a GE Eco-Imagination award for behavioral science based controls of energy use, People Power provides open-source, standards based energy management software to original equipment manufacturers and service providers through numerous network protocols.

People Power provides the most engaging white label device management applications that connect people with their devices and data for one-touch control, savings and convenience. Selection by publications as diverse as BeatWeek Magazine as "2012 MacWorld Best of Show," and the Wall Street Journal as one of only six invited startups to showcase their solution at its 2012 Eco-nomics Global Cleantech Summit recognizes the unique value of People Power's cloud service and mobile applications. For more information see www.peoplepowerco.com

About Intel
Intel (
NASDAQ: INTC) is a world leader in computing innovation. The company designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world's computing devices. Additional information about Intel is available at newsroom.intel.com and blogs.intel.com

About LBNL
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL or Berkeley Lab) was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a UC Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. Berkeley Lab has become synonymous with "excellence." Thirteen scientists associated with Berkeley Lab have won the Nobel Prize. Berkeley Lab is managed by the University of California (UC) and is charged with conducting only unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Berkeley Lab employs approximately 4,200 scientists, engineers, support staff and students. Microgrids have been an active area of research at Berkeley Lab for over a decade (http://der.lbl.gov/), with a primary focus on the optimal economic and environmental operation of microgrids. This work resides in the Grid Integration Group, which is also the home of demand response research and where the OpenADRprotocolfor delivering grid instructions to buildings and microgrids was developed. The U.S. China Clean Energy Research Center (http://www.us-china-cerc.org/) is also centered at Berkeley Lab, and several collaborative efforts on microgrids are underway with Chinese academic partners. For more information see: www.lbl.gov

About Canadian Solar
Canadian Solar Inc. (
NASDAQ: CSIQ) is one of the world's largest solar module producers. As a leading vertically integrated provider of ingots, wafers, solar cells, solar modules, solar power systems and specialized solar products, Canadian Solar delivers uncompromising value to its customers across the globe.