One hundred and 30 years ago, on 1st May 1888, Nikola Tesla obtained patent number 382,280 for the “electrical transmission of power”. Not only is it the patent for which Tesla is best remembered, but also was a key episode in the so-called “war of the currents”.
Describing the patent, Tesla wrote: “By producing an alternating current (AC), each impulse of which involves a rise and fall of potential I reproduce in the motor the exact conditions of the generator, and by such currents and the consequent production of poles the progression of the poles will be continuous and not intermittent.”
Thomas Edison dismissed Tesla’s AC system as “impractical”, instead promoting his simpler, but less efficient, direct-current (DC) system. Edison’s DC technology only allowed for an electrical grid within a one-mile radius from the power source, and was impractical for transmitting the massive quantities of energy needed by factories and cities.
Edison launched a campaign of dirty tricks to discredit AC, even going so far as to publicly electrocute stray dogs to demonstrate his claim that AC was more dangerous than DC. Nevertheless, despite Edison’s efforts to smear the technology, Westinghouse and General Electric eventually backed AC.
One hundred and 30 years later, DC is making a comeback in both developed and developing countries via Low Voltage Direct Current (LVDC). The majority of devices we use in homes, offices, healthcare facilities, greenhouses or data centres can use electricity from renewables as DC, without conversion to AC.
This includes for example battery operated equipment, electronics, LED lighting, electric vehicles and more.
In developed economies, the use of LVDC will help improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon footprint while ensuring excellent power quality. In developing countries it will allow the direct use of power generated by a solar panel, small wind turbine or micro hydro, including in remote locations.
LVDC will accelerate electricity access for the more than one billion people worldwide who still have none. IEC is leading efforts to make LVDC technology safe for use in rural electrification or homes, but also in data centres, buildings and other areas where a lot of energy could be used directly without losses in energy conversion.
IEC International Standards for LVDC provide the technical foundation for manufacturers to build safe DC products and guide installers of LVDC systems anywhere in the world. They allow regulators to bench-mark and compare systems from different vendors.
IEC LVDC Standards will facilitate the broad roll-out and application of LVDC technologies and underpin local manufacturing of appliances. They will help accelerate commercialization and open up markets to fair competition which benefits the end consumer.