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Beyond Power over Ethernet: the development of Digital Energy Networks for Bldgs
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Beyond Power over Ethernet: the development of Digital Energy Networks for Bldgs

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Session 5 Paper 1, CIBSE Technical Symposium, Imperial University, London, UK
18th and 19th April 2012


Alternating current power distribution using analogue control and safety devices has been the dominant process of power distribution within our buildings since the electricity industry began in the late 19th century. However, with advances in digital technology, the seeds of change have been growing over the last decade. Now, with the simultaneous dramatic fall in power requirements of digital devices and corresponding rise in capability of Power over Ethernet, an entire desktop
environment can be powered by a single direct current (dc) Ethernet cable. Going beyond this, it will soon be possible to power entire office buildings using dc networks. This means the logic of “one-size fits all” from the existing ac system is no longer relevant and instead there is an opportunity to redesign the power topology to be appropriate for different applications, devices and end-users throughout the building.

This paper proposes a 3-tier classification system for the topology of direct current microgrids in commercial buildings – called a Digital Energy Network or DEN. The first tier is power distribution at a full building level (otherwise known as the
microgrid); the second tier is power distribution at a room level (the nanogrid); and the third tier is power distribution at a desktop or appliance level (the picogrid). An important aspect of this classification system is how the design focus changes for each grid. For example; a key driver of the picogrid is the usability of the network – high data rates, and low power requirements; however, in the microgrid, the main driver is high power and efficiency at low cost.

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