Techno-economic analysis of DC power distribution in commercial buildings

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Journal Article

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Improvements in building end-use efficiency have significantly reduced the energy intensity of new buildings, but diminishing returns make it a challenge to build very-low energy buildings cost-effectively. A largely untapped efficiency strategy is to improve the efficiency of power distribution within buildings. Direct current (DC) distribution with modern power electronics has the potential to eliminate much of the power conversion loss in alternating current (AC) building distribution networks that include photovoltaics and DC end uses. Previous literature suggests up to 15% energy savings from DC power distribution in very energy efficient buildings with onsite generation and battery storage. This paper extends prior energy modeling of DC versus AC distribution in buildings, to consider the cost of implementing DC systems on a life-cycle basis.
A techno-economic analysis framework based on commercially available products that evaluates the cost-effectiveness of DC systems is presented. The analysis is conducted for three commercial building types in two California climate zones and for various PV and battery storage capacities. Monte Carlo simulation is used to compute the payback period and lifecycle cost savings of DC versus AC distribution systems. A future-market scenario is also examined, which evaluates how future efficiency improvements in power converters and changes in electricity tariffs may affect cost savings. This analysis shows that DC systems can be cost-effective in all scenarios that include large capacities of battery storage and onsite solar, whereas for systems without storage, DC distribution is generally not cost-effective.


Applied Energy



Year of Publication





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