INTELEC 2013 – DC distribution: The way forward

I recently participated at the International Telecommunications Energy Conference, INTELEC, presenting two papers as part of the High Voltage DC technical program. With its 35-year history addressing the field of power and energy in the communications industry, INTELEC yet again was able to attract some of the most interesting and knowledgeable people in the industry.

I was particularly impressed by the enthusiasm around 400 Vdc distribution: there is strong real-world commitment to this approach, which has now become a reality; last year it was up for discussion and debate, but this year it is actually happening. Many of the traditional leading UPS vendors were noticeable by their absence in the conference – a key indicator that DC distribution is taking off. These companies have always promoted the AC grid for obvious reasons and have played a vital role in the past.

Maurizio Salto VicorThe main topic of interest this year was native DC; everything is going DC quite naturally because the technology explosion in renewables. Germany is leading the move to renewable power, which is inherently DC, and needs an easy interface from these sources to the new smart grid. The general feeling at the conference was one of excitement that this is a great opportunity to develop the next generation of the grid which will undoubtedly be based on DC distribution.

I think that it was telling when HP, a leading server and telecom company, was actively endorsing higher voltage DC technology as the way to go. When companies like this make such an endorsement, the world certainly listens.

The topic of energy storage, particularly battery technology, was high on the agenda. Energy comes from a variety of sources and needs to be stored until needed; you can’t just deliver power when the sun shines or wind blows. It’s becoming clear that the management of this stored energy needs to be a two-way operation; from the utility company to the user and in the reverse direction with surplus energy from the user feeding back into the grid. At INTELEC, people discussed the potential of telecom companies or even automobiles using their existing batteries to store energy: this will generate revenue for the user and, in turn, help stabilize the load performance of the grid. At the moment, there is considerable frustration in utility companies due to the inherent difficulty of interfacing renewable or stored DC sources of energy with the traditional AC grid. It absolutely needs to be changed to DC and 400 Vdc is now becoming the accepted platform to achieve this.

It’s not just in Germany that these technologies are now being seriously considered and actively developed. Japan has a particular interest because of their rapid move away from nuclear, and will most likely be one of the first to follow Germany’s lead. We are not looking at a regional breakthrough, but one that will lead the trend worldwide as power distribution within equipment and in the grid moves away from the traditional AC model to the more energy-appropriate DC systems of the future.


More Information

Maurizio’s presentation at INTELEC 2013: Power Adapter Design for 400 V DC Power Distribution in Electronic Systems
More information about Power System Architectures for 380 Vdc Distribution

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