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EMerge Alliance Task Level/Furnishings workgroup aims to advance DC power to the desktop


March 23, 2012
By Alyssa Dalton

March 23, 2012 – The EMerge Alliance, an industry association helping to adopt safe direct-current (DC) power distribution standards for commercial buildings‚ has formed a Task Level / Furnishings workgroup to create a standard bringing DC power directly to the desktop. The workgroup, led by Steelcase, aims to better optimize power use by the rising number of DC-powered devices used at or near the desktop every day.

According to the alliance, the workgroup was launched due to the success of its first standard for the Occupied Space, which focuses on distributing DC power directly at the ceiling plane.

When finished, the standard will provide a consistent and convenient way for people to plug in their DC devices, eliminating the need for wasteful and cumbersome external AC-DC converters found on a variety of computing and mobile devices and chargers today, said EMerge Alliance.

The new standard will be harmonized with the alliance’s 24-volt DC Occupied Space standard and the soon-to-be-released 380-volt DC Data and Telecom Center standard. The new standard will look to include consideration of contemporary power, infrastructure, device and control applications, as well as the future power needs of the latest desktop technologies, including wireless power charging and higher powered versions of the increasingly popular USB interface.

Joel Zwier, advanced applications business lead at Steelcase, will serve as workgroup chair and Matt Banach, director of engineering at Herman Miller, will serve as vice chair. Other members of the alliance, which has grown to include more than 85 members, are also involved in this effort. The group is inviting other companies in the office furnishings and electronics industry to join and contribute to the development process.

“The EMerge Alliance is meeting pent-up demaWorkscapend for the establishment of standards for direct current power where people use the most devices – at their workspace,” said Zwier. “By defining how workspaces distribute power, we will enable even more organizations to take advantage of an innovative, yet simple approach to flexible and efficient power use, and improve their day-to-day mobility and sustainability.”

EMerge Alliance chair Brian Patterson said the new workgroup will help take the alliance a step further in achieving its larger vision for direct DC powering of entire buildings.

“From occupied spaces and data centres to building services and outdoor applications, such as electric vehicle charging, the Alliance’s mission focuses on bringing hybrid AC-DC power architectures and DC microgrids to every level of commercial buildings,” he said. “In combination with the potential integration of on-site DC generation, including solar and other renewable sources, this modular standards approach is helping the industry transform the way we power buildings for greater reliability and efficiency, and ultimately delivering net-zero energy buildings.”

The DC-powered desktop concept was featured in the EMerge Alliance’s display at Greenbuild 2011 in Toronto, Ont., last year – which EBMag’s sister publication, Energy Manager, attended.

Since the October 2011 conference, nine more organizations have joined the alliance, including: Cisco Systems and Duke Energy Business Services at the participating level; Semi-Materials and USAI Lighting at the general level; Acuity Power Group at the corresponding level; and Enatel Limited, Morstar Electric, Solar Dad and Sons, and Workscape at the supporting level.