More green data center DC power myths.

I’ve just been reading about the value of DC power in the data center. in this post, I’m going to correct some of the strange myths and egregious errors that are spread about DC power.

“But the downside is that DC power can require much larger wires to carry the current, thus creating power buildup and arcing that can endanger IT equipment and staff.”

Where do I start on this one. Power does not “build up” in the large conductors of DC power systems, any more than power “builds up” at your unused AC outlet. Not using the DC power doesn’t mean it’s going to build up, over flow, and arc. Mark this one as completely ridiculous.

“.. added that moderately high-voltage DC power poses some safety concerns, where the power can build up and arc.”

Once again, DC power doesn’t “build up”. Any high voltage distribution system that’s inadequately insulated has the potential to do this whether it’s AC or DC. I’ve seen catastrophic failures in common 240VAC and 480VAC circuits that resulted in melted bus bars, holes burned in armored cable, and total destruction of equipment (look at the Fisher Plaza fire where they destroyed 4000A aluminum bus bars).

What does affect the tendency to arc is jacking the voltage up and that’s just the same whether it’s AC or DC, there’s no great mystery to that. There’s a tendency to want to use high voltages to reduce wire size (higher voltage=less current=smaller wire). I myself much prefer to use long time industry standard 48VDC power, which is touch safe and has an extremely small arc over distance.

“”Four-hundred volts DC may be more dangerous than 400-volts AC,” he said.”

In a properly constructed DC power system, there’s no appreciable difference in safety between AC and DC, expect for some possible difference in coming in contact with the energized conductors. This point is really moot since you do NOT want to be coming in contact with either live 400VDC or 400VAC. Either way, someone is getting hurt.

Is there any safety hazard in the DC power plant? Yes, the battery string (exactly the same hazard that a battery equipped AC UPS has as well). Short the unfused battery leads or drop an uninsulated tool into the bus bars and you’re going to be missing some wire or a tool, completely. Batteries can put out 9,000+ amps of current in a fraction of a second in a short condition.

Finally, there’s the efficiency issue. Comparing a DC power plant to a conventional double conversion (or “online”) UPS is not in doubt. The UPS systems that fare better against DC are the type with “eco mode” (the old “standby” UPS). In normal operation, the eco mode UPS powers the load directly from the AC power, so it doesn’t use the power hogging inverter. Of course, this means the data center equipment has to stand the switch over to battery and the efficiency looks just as bad as a double conversion UPS when it’s running from battery.

Call or email me or visit the SwiftWater Telecom web site today and we’ll design a green DC power plant for your data center that will be SAFE and EFFICIENT!


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