EMerge Alliance, the San Ramon, Calif.-based organization established to promote the rapid adoption of safe, low-voltage DC power distribution and use in commercial building interiors, recently announced the release of the EMerge Alliance Standard, the first roadmap for the utilization of safe, low-voltage DC power in commercial interiors.

According to the organization, the new industry standard defines critical physical and electrical requirements that help achieve the following goals: reduced energy losses by eliminating device-by-device electrical conversions from AC to DC power; use of safe Class 2 power levels, wherever practical, as defined by the National Electrical Code; broad capabilities for faster and simpler moves, adds, and changes in occupied spaces; movement toward interoperable device-level controls and smart grid integration at the building level; easier integration of native DC power sources, such as solar, wind, fuel cell, and batteries, with traditional AC power sources; flexibility to implement new energy-saving devices, such as LED lighting and controls, and energy-saving technologies, such as renewable power sources, more efficiently and effectively.

The EMerge Alliance Standard establishes a more efficient means of powering the rapidly increasing number of digital, DC-powered devices, such as sensors, lighting, and IT equipment. It creates an integrated, open platform for power, interior infrastructures, controls, and a wide variety of peripheral devices to facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power within buildings. In the standardized scheme, AC power is converted to low-voltage DC for efficient distribution at the room level, eliminating the inefficiency of numerous AC to DC power conversions at the device level.

The standard also provides for an optional connection to onsite alternative power generation, including solar panels and micro-turbines that naturally generate DC power. Historically, these native DC power generators required their power to be converted to AC for local distribution, reducing their efficiency and increasing costs. Using native DC power generated from onsite sources to drive DC loads more directly can dramatically improve building efficiency, reduce energy costs, and reduce environmental footprints. Throughout development of the standard, the EMerge Alliance incorporated technology requirements and contributions from a wide variety of industry stakeholders, including leading product manufacturers, service providers, utility companies, and technology integrators. According to Brian Patterson, alliance chairman, the standard is a pivotal milestone for the entire building industry. "The EMerge Alliance Standard sets the stage for a new era in power sourcing, distribution, and management in commercial buildings," he says. "While we advocate increased use of native DC power, the alliance is not interested in reliving the epic Edison and Westinghouse battle over AC versus DC technologies. Rather, we’ve set out to find better and more practical ways of getting the most out of both."

The alliance is establishing a third-party registration and evaluation program for labeling products based on the standard. This program will benefit alliance members, system specifiers, and building owners by ensuring a variety of products will be available from the growing EMerge Alliance membership base and that all products will be easily identifiable in the market. The program is scheduled to begin this fall.