“A company called Extreme Low Energy (ELe) has recently won an award for its new innovation, which claims potential energy savings of 80 per cent, by delivering DC electricity direct to office computer systems, without the need for inefficient conversion from AC at every machine.
- Prize-winning DC power system claims big energy savings
- Avoiding inefficient conversions could play a big role in carbon cuts
In this case, no re-wiring or additional testing is required either, as electricity is delivered via low voltage ethernet cables – the standard kind used for network and broadband connections.
The system also caters for new forms of energy, enabling DC power to be delivered directly from renewables retrofitted to offices, or installed in new builds.
Interesting idea – but not entirely new
Aled Stephens (pictured), Energy Saving Trust analyst, said: “It looks interesting. The company intends to provide DC power to devices directly, either from renewables, or by performing a single conversion from the grid at building level, rather than at each device.
“The technology makes sense. AC-DC conversion is a lossy process. But avoiding AC isn’t entirely new: DC power is already used to run low-voltage lighting and other appliances in off-grid properties, and some data centres use DC to power the computers in a more energy efficient way.”
A wave of DC trailblazers
Stephens also highlights the fact that there are other firms looking into the inefficiencies of power conversion, coupled with the potential of renewable energy. He said:
“Moixa Technology is doing something similar with its Maslow storage system. It provides a battery which can be integrated into solar PV systems, with the option of powering lights and IT with DC power. It has previously won funding from DECC and Innovate UK to develop the business.”
Out of office potential?
ELe says it has achieved some impressive results, both helping schools in South Africa deliver more computing for a finite amount of power, and with Intel, where an additional energy saving is illustrated. Using DC power means less heat is generated from the machines, reducing air conditioning usage and the need for fans in computers.
With a claimed carbon saving of three tonnes a year for every 30 computers using the system, the new approach is clearly one that can’t be ignored. Stephens thinks the main potential for this technology may currently be in businesses and schools in which large proportions of their electricity bills are used to run computers, rather than in domestic properties. He added:
“Properties with renewable energy are usually already converting the energy to AC, which is a requirement to be able to feed that energy to the National Grid and claim Feed-in Tariffs. Computing is also far from the main energy use in the average home. Although it may not make sense for normal domestic use right now, the technology looks like it has some potential.”