Way to work with zero emissions
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Did you know that an average office workplace in the UK is responsible for roughly 900 kg of CO2 emissions annually? Offsetting these emissions through renewables is possible. But installing solar panels on your roof or facade is usually a complex process involving permits, procurement, construction, and certification. UBIK has found a way to power your work directly from the sun without boring a single hole or drilling a single screw.
In one of our previous post we introduced you to our DC demo office, but few know that this project is a follow up to the ENERGY NEUTRAL WORKPLACE (ENW) – the flexible plug-and-play cell of the DC microgrid project co-funded by Enterprise Estonia (EAS). Additionally, our ENW provides you with a robust Uninterrupted Power Supply which scales to deliver the flexibility for on-site electric vehicle charging and the ability to avoid spiking energy prices during the day.
It is time for the architect companies, real estate developers, installers and others to rethink their strategies and switch from conventional to more sustainable solutions. Both our successfully implemented projects - ENW project and DC demo office prove that the DC system has significantly high performance. Our technology allows to develop more efficient power systems using less materials and capital paving the way to the zero-carbon construction sector.
Why this project is so important?
The project aimed to develop and validate an innovative power delivery concept for the office workplaces, which features a zero annual primary energy consumption and minimal impact on the power quality of the grid. By combining the efficient power delivery and conversion technologies with optimally sized renewable energy microgeneration and storage, the proposed ENW concept helps to enhance the energy efficiency of office buildings and reduce their carbon footprint.
This objective is in line with multiple EU directives, such as Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and market trends pushing consumers towards the Net Zero Energy Building concept. In this context an ENW is an integral scalable cell towards a Net Zero Energy Building – either as a part of a home or a commercial or even an industrial office space.
It’s no surprise – that most of your work is done during daylight hours – while we can deliver power from directly from the sun to your devices. Our goal was to show that this can be done reliably and safely without the need for a complex installation.
Our project started in January 2021 and lasted till June. The office workplace was built to maximize self-consumption and be a scalable grid-support unit at scale. It had fed-in limitation and supported 230VAC and 350VDC power distribution grids.
The electrical loads and respective maximum power consumption rates used in the workplace are outlined in a table below. There was usually a “Dell Type-C Laptop” always drawing some amount of power to display the statistics of the ENW and other solar installations on the “Type-C powered 23inch PC Display”. During working hours an employee could also connect his own “Dell Type-C High Performance Laptop” which he could use for Computer Aided Design of Printed Circuit Boards along with the on-desk monitor. Occasionally anyone in the office with a low phone battery could also charge their phones at the ENW. As the experiment was carried out during summer in a room with large windows towards to south – the need for powering the “table lamp” was rare.
Maximum Power Consumption
Dell Type-C High Performance Laptop
Dell Type-C Laptop
Type-C powered 23inch PC Display
LED Table Lamp
Expected Peak Consumption
Devices were configured in a way that prioritized the use of energy in the following order:
1. Generated PV energy
2. Energy stored in battery
3. Grid energy
One of the key methods chosen to minimize the energy losses is the adoption of a Direct Current (DC) power distribution bus within the ENW – whereby the energy efficiency of the ENW was increased by up to 25% as compared to traditional 230 VAC 50Hz power delivery. The added benefit of the proposed solution is significantly less “electronic pollution” of the central electrical grid then otherwise possible with any conventional Alternating Current (AC) powered workplace at any office today.
Power factor (PF) is the ratio of working power, measured in kilowatts (kW), to apparent power, measured in kilovolt amperes (kVA) and the lower its value is, the less efficient power usage is. Whereas cheap power converters used in office-electronics come with a power factor (PF) of 0,5...0,8 – the centralized AC/DC converter in the proposed concept will operate with a PF of 0,95 when drawing power from the central energy grid – reducing the reactive power and improving the energy efficiency of the workplace even further – optimizing costs for the end commercial customer and minimizing the CO2 footprint of the office cell.
The following diagram graphically presents the ENW structure:
1. Renewable energy from the sun was converted to electricity via a PV panel. This electricity was then forwarded to a DC/DC 24V converter which ensured a stable power supply to the devices on the workplace.
2. Any excess energy at time of generation was forwarded to a battery for storage and later use.
3. If no energy is available from the battery or the PV panel – the required electricity was drawn from the central AC grid through the same AC/DC converter with a high-power factor.
4. The workplace was equipped with a notebook computer, an extra computer monitor, a LED lamp and a phone charger – all drawing power from the DC power distribution bus through standard USB-C sockets.
Results & Conclusions
During its lifetime one ENW can offset 1050 kg of CO2 in a Northern-European climate. All in a plug-and-play combo which can be easily placed in any home or office without a drilling a single screw – this is especially important for the 70% of employees who were working from home during our new normal.
The buildings in the EU are responsible for 36% of total CO2 emissions. According to STATISTA, the EU produced approximately 2.54 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. Imagine, if 1/3 of this amount could be avoided if such a simple measure – installation of PV panels and storage, was adopted? In addition to that, Direct Current based solar power system right next to the consumer gives you up to 25% more energy directly from the sun.
Our project proves that the path towards PV self-consumption is open for everyone. The fact that our ENW module supports integration into the DC microgrid adds unlimited power sharing options between other ENWs, on-site storage and EV charging solutions – reducing peak loads of the office or household and increasing energy security. Integrated Solar and Storage is the way to support the Fit for 55 targets. The native form of energy transfer between Solar and Storage and your everyday appliances is Direct Current. As direct as the path that we must take towards the Energy Transition.