Energy is of course about generation, transmission and distribution. Today, as energy consumption is forecast to double between now and 2030, it is also about storage and harvesting. Low voltage direct current (LVDC) is also surfacing as a big trend in electricity distribution.
Not letting energy go to waste
Looking for ways to harvest and store energy from heat or vibrations has been a preoccupation for many years, if not centuries. Think windmills or waterwheels. Today the driving force behind the search for new energy harvesting devices is the desire to power sensor networks and mobile devices without batteries. Another motivation for the development of energy harvesting technologies is the need to address environmental issues such as climate change.
Energy harvesting, i.e. the process that captures small amounts of energy from heat, light, sound, vibration or movement, has many benefits other than the simple fact that it captures energy. It helps improve efficiency – for instance, waste heat from computers can be harvested and used to power them. It enables new technologies such as wireless sensor networks. It also has the potential to replace batteries for small, low-power electronic devices, thus making them maintenance-free and environmentally-friendlier.
This issue of e-tech offers a thorough overview of the latest advances in energy harvesting technologies.
LVDC is coming back
More than 100 years after the war of currents between Edison and Tesla/Westinghouse, LVDC is making a comeback as the possible next evolution of electricity distribution. With distributed energy generation on the rise, this approach may hold significant advantages, not least in terms of energy efficiency. It is seen as an attractive solution to provide power in off-grid and other settings.
The IEC Standardization Management Board (SMB) set up a Systems Evaluation Group (SEG 4) to evaluate the status of standardization in the field of LVDC applications and products and to recommend the architecture of any future standardization work programme. Its Convenor gives details for e-tech.