Direct Current as an Integrating Platform for ZNE Buildings with EVs and Storage: DC Direct Systems – A Bridge to a Low Carbon Future?
Cost effective zero net energy (ZNE) schemes exist for many types of residential and commercial buildings. Yet, today’s alternating current (AC) based ZNE designs may be as much as 10% to 20% less efficient, more costly, and more complicated than a design based on direct current (DC) technologies. An increasing number of research organizations and manufacturers are just starting the process of developing products and conducting research and development (R&D) efforts. These early R&D efforts indicate that the use of DC technologies may deliver many energy and non-energy benefits relative to AC-based typologies. DC ZNE schemes may provide for an ideal integrating platform for natively DC-based onsite generation, storage, electric vehicle (EV) charging and end-use loads. Emerging empirical data suggest that DC end-use appliances are more efficient, simpler, more durable, and lower cost. DC technologies appear to provide ratepayers a lower cost pathway to achieve resilient ZNE buildings, and simultaneously yield a plethora of benefits. This paper draws from the current research effort entitled "Direct Current as an Integrating and Enabling Platform," co-led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the California Institute for Energy and the Environment (CIEE), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and funded under the California Energy Commission’s Energy Program Investment Charge (CEC EPIC). The first phase of this EPIC research is focused on assembling and summarizing known global performance information on DC and DC-AC hybrid end-use appliances and power systems. This paper summarizes the information and insights gained from this research effort.