Researchers at the University of Waterloo have recently designed a new distribution system that would not only reduce electricity prices by over 5% but also improve service reliability.
The new design involves integration of two types of electric current – direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) – that power most homes, industries, and even electric vehicles.
The research team found that they could leverage efficiencies by designing a system that distributes both types of current to customers, rather that AC-only distribution system currently in use throughout the world.
The new approach reduces the conversions from one type of current to another, while making it easier to implement rising green technologies.
According to Haytham Ahmed who led the research with electrical engineering colleagues at Waterloo, minimizing the requirements of power conversions creates a relatively simple system with reduced loss and greater efficiency. Reducing the number of converters also reduces the chances of service interruptions caused by breakdowns, he added.
Conventional power networks carry AC as it uses power transformers to maximize voltage for greater efficiency of long-distance transmission and to minimize the voltage for distribution purposes. Therefore, the distribution systems that deliver electricity from local substations to end users also carry the alternating current.
This suggests that electronic devices including smartphones, computers, and televisions which all utilize DC power must include AC-DC convertors.
In addition, it means converters are necessary to charge DC-generated electric vehicles and deliver electricity to power grids from green generation sources such as fuel cells and solar panels that produce DC.
In comparison, AC-DC hybrid distribution system estimates savings of more than 5% over AC-only distribution system because of less energy loss and lower costs of infrastructure.
Heat coming off while charging a laptop is energy loss which can be eliminated and consume less power, Ahmed said.
The AC-DC hybrid distribution system is likely to have the greatest potential for adoption in commercial as well as new residential areas, or during the expansion of conventional systems with additional substations.