Local DC Electricity Distribution Conference Announced

March 20, 2014 by Jeff Shepard

Transforming the 21st Century Energy Economy is the title of a conference to be hosted March 30 to April 1, 2014 at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. Conference Organizers include: Dr. Rajendra Singh with the Holcombe ECE Department at Clemson University; Dr. Krishna Shenai, Energy Systems Division, Argonne National Laboratory; and Mr. Brian T. Patterson, Chairman of the Emerge Alliance. A keynote address at the conference in downtown Charleston will be by Jim Rogers, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Duke Energy. Other speakers include Bill Mahoney, chief executive officer of the S.C. Research Authority, Louis Gossett, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance and Don Talka, senior vice president and chief engineer of Underwriters Laboratories.

The U.S. electricity infrastructure of generation, transmission and distribution was built over the course of a century. The aging electricity infrastructure is experiencing dramatic change, all of which could threaten the stability, reliability, resilience, affordability and environmental impact of this vital source of energy. With the invention and commercialization of alternating current (AC) during the second half of the 19th century, the global electricity infrastructure in the 20th century was dominated by AC.

The traditional model of large centralized AC electrical power generation and long-haul distribution via high-voltage transmission and low-voltage distribution lines results in significant loss of electrical energy. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 70 percent of electrical energy is lost in generation, transmission and distribution. Direct current (DC) electricity, locally generated by solar panels and or windmills, is expected to save 30 percent of this loss.

Except for a few applications, most electric loads — cell phones, lap top, refrigerators, air conditioners — operate on DC power. In commercial buildings, as much as 80 percent of loads are DC. Since the current electricity infrastructure in U.S. is dominated by AC, there is a need to develop hybrid adaptive smart DC microgrids that will accelerate the adaptation and utilization of clean renewable energy. Other than cost savings, local DC electricity will provide reliable and resilient microgrids.

The sponsors of the conference are SCRA, EMerge Alliance, Duke Energy, StarLine DC Solutions, Argonne National Laboratory, Emerson Electric Co., and South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.