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War of the Currents: AC/DC Power
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« on: July 29, 2016, 10:19:47 AM »

War of the Currents: AC/DC Power
Fri, 07/29/2016 - 10:17am s by Darren Halford, EU Automation
Deeper Insights
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates - two of the most well-known figures in modern technology and also, one of the industry’s most infamous rivalries. “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste,” Jobs famously stated in 1996. Despite the snide remarks and occasional lawsuits, both Jobs and Gates realized there was room on the IT market for both companies to coexist. The same however, cannot be said for George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison. Arguably two of the brightest minds in science, the pair engaged in a decade-long vendetta over alternating (AC) and direct (DC) electrical currents.

More than a century later, Darren Halford, sales manager of industrial automation supplier EU Automation, discusses the war of the currents and its implication on modern data centers.

Fueled by the fear of losing his fortune, in the late 1880s Edison began a propaganda campaign to convince the public that AC power was deadly – despite DC power being equally as dangerous. In spite of brutal demonstrations, AC came out on top. Now, over a century later, DC power is finally beginning to make a comeback, but this time, on its own merits.

Any device that uses transistors relies on the direct flow of electricity that DC power provides. Accounting for up to 20 percent of the world’s total power consumption, consumer devices such as PCs, smart phones, and televisions rely on DC direct current. To some extent, our growing taste for consumer technology is responsible for the steep growth of DC.

However, the growing popularity of DC power is not limited to user level. With high voltage transmission lines, DC power provides more efficient and lower construction costs than its AC alternative. Currently, AC is the standard for transmitting electricity around the grid and to many industrial devices, like electrical motors. However, as industry struggles to increase efficiency, while maintaining or improving availability, DC power is now seen as an opportunity to save energy. By distributing DC power to DC devices, rather than converting it to AC along the way, companies can avoid substantial energy losses.

Another driver for DC power is the growing number of data centers around the world. Currently consuming 1.3 percent of electricity globally, data centers are growing in size and capacity. Data center managers are currently converting the incoming AC power from the grid by using large centralized converters to distribute DC power across their facilities. However, by replacing AC/DC converters with more efficient, centralized inverters, energy consumption can be reduced by up to 15 percent.

The benefits of DC power for the data center are clear. Financially, DC power applications are cheaper to install, operate, and maintain than AC alternatives. What’s more, there is no need to adapt capacity to account for phase balancing or harmonics, as they are not a factor with DC power. As data centers enter a new stage of maturity, where reliability and delivering a higher capacity is vital, DC power seems to be the obvious solution to lower costs and reduce power consumption.

Note: it was Tesla not Westinghouse that promoted AC

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