Groundbreaking project on trial

For the first time in the UK, researchers from the University of Bath are working with RWE npower in a groundbreaking project exploring the potential energy savings of using a localised DC (Direct Current) electricity supply network.

Professor Raj Aggarwal and Dr Miles Redfern, from the University’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, are leading the project that will set up 50 computers in the University library to draw their energy from a specially created local DC network.

The six-month trial is designed to test the feasibility and potential energy, financial and environmental benefits of using a DC supply compared with an alternating current (AC) system.

In DC networks, the electrons flow steadily in a single direction, whereas in an AC system, the electrons keep switching directions. All electronic equipment such as computers, TVs and communications systems use DC current, but the power that comes from wall sockets is AC, so these devices must use an AC/DC converter.

Senior Lecturer in Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Dr Miles Redfern explained: “With the explosion of electronic systems in entertainment, communications and computing, all of which are inherently DC powered, DC supply networks have to be considered as an alternative to AC supplies.

“The library at Bath has AC systems operating alongside the DC ones, providing us with an invaluable test-bed to establish if DC supplies can offer advantages for our current electricity demands.”

Allan Robinson, Head of Product at RWE npower said: “It is vital as an energy generator/supplier that we explore every option that will deliver potentially significant energy savings for our customers.

“Partnerships such as this are vital for two reasons, firstly to bring together the overwhelming experience of both parties and secondly to deliver a robust report that will enable the industry to take the technology forward to explore its potential on a larger scale.”

The funding for the project has come from a Knowledge Transfer Account Partnership Development Award which has been matched by RWE npower.

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