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China to build first direct-current microgrid

University microgrid will serve as a global showcase for distributed direct-current innovation and commercialisation

The direct-current microgrid is being developed at Xiamen University in Xiamen
The direct-current microgrid, which is being developed at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, could change the way complex buildings manage energy

Technology and energy providers are working together to build China’s first direct current microgrid. The Haixi International New Energy Industry Expo and Forum, Xiamen University, as well as firms Nextek Power Systems, People Power Company, Canadian Solar, Intel Corporation and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), have announced an alliance to construct and manage direct-current microgrids at the School of Energy Research in Xiamen University.

The microgrid will become operational this year and will make Xiamen University China's first direct-current powered commercial building, and will serve as a global showcase for distributed direct-current microgrid innovation and commercialisation.

The Xiamen University's direct-current microgrid could change the way Chinese campuses and building complexes manage, control and consume energy by directly integrating renewable energy generation and storage batteries with building electrical loads through one-touch mobile and web-based energy management and control applications. This change is significant because of Chinese building energy consumption.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, Chinese building consumption could account for 20 per cent of the 2020 global coal consumption if China cannot reduce its building energy consumption.

Nextek Power Systems will introduce the first Direct Coupling(R) Microgrid in mainland China that will manage and support diverse energy loads such as direct-current lighting, air conditioning, data centers, electrical vehicle charging and building plug loads. People Power Company will provide its award-winning, cloud-based energy management, control and behavioral analytics applications that will enable building managers to control and manage buildings loads. LBNL will develop methods and algorithms for the optimal equipment choice and operation of direct-current microgrids. Meanwhile, Canadian Solar will provide customised solar panels for this rooftop solar system and Intel will provide technical expertise and advise on this research.

The School of Energy Research in Xiamen University conducts research and develops technologies in Advanced Nuclear Energy, Solar Energy, Chemical Energy, Bio-energy, Energy Efficiency Engineering and Energy Economics. A 150kW solar system will be deployed on the rooftop of an engineering building. The School of Energy Research will work with partners to integrate state-of-art technologies into a showcase for energy efficiency and a platform for developing renewable energy applications.

Professor Fengyan Zhang of the school of energy research at Xiamen University, said: “The Xiamen University Direct-Current Microgrid has the potential to transform building management because it can integrate DC power from renewable energy with many loads. This will enable building managers to reduce capital expenditures as well as operational costs over the life of their buildings.

“Nextek Power Systems is delighted to be working with our friends at LBNL, Intel, People Power Company, Canadian Solar and Xiamen University to field our first significant installation in the country," said Paul Savage, CEO of Nextek Power Systems. "We think the opportunities that will spring from this are endless."

The joint DC microgrid solution is important to China and building managers globally because of the significant energy savings and operational efficiency the solution will create. The new Chinese building energy codes call for at least 50 per cent energy savings at less than a 10 per cent cost increase, compared to existing building costs.

DC microgrids provide an option to achieve these requirements because of the clean renewable energy adoption and behavioral energy building management controls that reduce energy consumption, significantly increase building efficiency and improve occupant comfort and productivity.

People Power CEO Gene Wang, said: "People Power is excited to join Intel, LBNL, Nextek and Xiamen University in showcasing how DC microgrids can transform conventional buildings into smarter buildings by adding compelling, cloud-based energy load demand management and user engagement programs. This innovation creates an exciting set of energy and workflow options for building managers and occupants."