A team of researchers from the University of Bath are working with RWE npower in a project exploring the potential energy savings of using a localised direct current electricity supply network.
Professor Raj Aggarwal and Dr Miles Redfern, from the university’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, are leading the project. The department has been given a floor in the university library with 50 computers for the project, which aims to draw energy from a specially created local DC network. As well as education, the department works in the research of new power systems and the exploitation of renewable energy.
Dr Redfern, a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering, said: “With the explosion of electronic systems in entertainment, communications and computing, all of which are inherently DC powered, DC supply networks have to be considered as an alternative to AC supplies.”
DC has its advantages: using DC means using a different converter which in turn will make less electrical noise, something the department sees as broadly useful in our day-to-day lives. DC has higher thermal losses but higher energy efficiency in electrical products.
Dr Redfern told ELN: “We accept that for industrial purposes AC output is best, but DC might be better for the final user, office blocks and potentially homes. It is expected to show immediate savings from more efficient computers. The big saving is eliminating wave form distortion.”
DC is easily stored in battery form. Therefore the time of use of electricity can be adapted. Potentially, you could charge up during the night for computing operations, making it possible to change the tariff from day to night.”
Allan Robinson, head of product at RWE npower, said: “It is vital as an energy generator/supplier we explore every option that will deliver potentially significant energy savings for our customers.”
Dr Redfern added: “Having batteries takes you off the dependency of public supply. It would be foolhardy to change over now. Ten-fifteen years? Watch this space, people have to be sold.”
The funding for the project has come from a Knowledge Transfer Account Partnership Development Award which has been matched by RWE npower.