A report published by Navigant Research, “Direct Current Distribution Networks,” examines the opportunity for direct current (DC) distribution networks in four key market segments: off-grid/bad grid telecommunications, data centers, commercial building grids and off-grid military applications. Each segment involves different market assumptions, dynamics and drivers.
While large, centralized power plants are expected to continue to play a role in providing alternating current (AC) power to the wholesale macrogrid (the nation’s interconnected electric transmission grid), there is a growing momentum at the electric-service-distribution level to diversify power offerings and pursue solutions incorporating a growing proportion of DC power.
According to Navigant, a heated debate continues over the advantages and disadvantages of DC. The majority of progress in developing DC-based technologies has occurred at either the high-voltage (over 1,000V) or low-voltage (under 100V) level.
“However, since microgrids and building-scale nanogrids typically operate at medium voltage, much work needs to be done to bridge this voltage innovation gap,” said Peter Asmus, a principal research analyst with Navigant. Medium-voltage is defined as roughly 380V–400V.
The utility industry’s current focus on medium-voltage DC distribution networks are with systems that are mostly concentrated on the data center market segment. However, that can also apply to commercial buildings.
DC distribution networks face other challenges, though. One challenge relates to the need for standards and open-grid architectures that can help integrate the increasing diversity of resources.
However, according to Navigant, there is momentum at the distribution level of electricity service to diversify power offerings and pursue hybrid solutions that incorporate a growing proportion of DC.
Navigant expects that global DC-distribution-network implementation revenue will grow from $2.8 billion in 2015 to $5.1 billion in 2024.