5 Ways DC Microgrids Improve Energy Efficiency in Logistics

Energy costs are increasing at a rate not seen since the 1970s and it is causing major issues for landlords and tenants across the logistics sector. This is resulting in increased pressure on operations and management teams to look for new strategies for energy efficiency and cost reduction.

One fast-developing solution to this crisis is the implementation of DC microgrids alongside on-site renewable energy generation and power storage. But how does deploying a DC microgrid drive energy efficiencies and what are their cost benefits?

Here are 5 ways DC microgrids support energy efficiencies in logistics sites.

5 Ways DC Microgrids can Improve Energy Efficiency in Logistics Sites

1. By Optimising Energy Flow

DC microgrids optimise energy flow by removing excess, inefficient power conversions required in traditional power deployments.

Using a traditional power installation example in a distribution centre, incoming AC power would go through at least 5 power conversions before it reached an end device, with an overall power efficiency of around 77%. This means around 23% of the total power you pay for is lost due to power conversions. 

Alternatively, by centralising the AC-DC power conversions and deploying power across a DC microgrid, multiple AC-DC inverters are removed from the system, and in doing so, saving at least two power conversions from incoming AC power to the end device. This results in increased power efficiency, with around 15% total energy savings.

2. By Optimising Energy Storage

Batteries, our go-to energy storage method for powered equipment, are natively DC. When we connect DC batteries through a traditional AC power system there are two power conversions required:

  1. To convert AC power to DC ready for energy storage, and
  2. To convert the DC power to AC ready for energy distribution.

These power conversions are duplicated across a logistics site for each connected UPS device to ensure the continued operation of business-critical technologies. By implementing a DC microgrid with battery storage, we remove the need for these additional power conversions while benefitting from a centralised power redundancy solution which increases energy efficiency.

3. Through their Synergy with Renewables

On-site renewable energy generation (generally PV panels on rooftops) are natively DC. Similar to the previous two points, when renewable energy is used in conjunction with energy storage and a DC microgrid, it minimises power loss by removing excess power conversions.

Using a traditional renewables installation example in a distribution centre, incoming renewable energy would go through at least 6 power conversions before it reached an end device, with an overall power efficiency of around 74%. This means around 26% of the total power generated is lost due to power conversions. 

By removing the need for AC power conversions using a DC microgrid, only two conversions are required to capture, store, distribute and use the renewable power. The removal of excess power conversions results in 92% power efficiency. 

4. By Eliminating Duplicate Equipment

DC microgrids remove the need for excess power conversions. In doing so, they also remove the need for the inverter equipment required to carry out these conversions.

Additionally, traditional AC power deployments use Power over Ethernet (PoE) cables to deliver power and data to devices like LED lighting, surveillance cameras, Wi-Fi and access control around a site. Aside from the bulk and weight issues that stem from these cable deployments, they also suffer from distance limitations, requiring intermediary communications cabinets strategically placed around sites. These cabinets often house an array of servers, switches, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), patch panels and routers, taking up valuable space, and importantly, requiring significant quantities of duplicate power, cabling and equipment to support site operation.

We estimate that up to 20% of equipment could be eliminated using Landways’ Infrastructure as a Service solution. Our infrastructure solution removes the need for intermediate communications cabinets. Deploying DC microgrids alongside full-fibre connectivity using Landways’ patent-pending Induct™ solution (Patent Application: GB2592955 (A) ― 2021-09-15), we enable the centralisation of critical hardware.  This eradicates excess (and often duplicate) communications equipment across the site to offer a streamlined, multi-use digital and power infrastructure capable of supporting multiple systems, returning valuable real estate back to the occupier, and optimising power efficiency.

5. By Reducing Excess Heat

Excess heat in distributed communications cabinets, produced when converting AC to DC for networking equipment, often requires dedicated air conditioning units to stabilise critical networking equipment temperatures.

By addressing points 1, 2 and 4 above, we also inadvertently remove the need for multiple distributed climate control equipment in distributed communications rooms across the site, providing a further reduction in duplicated equipment its power requirements.

To meet carbon reduction goals, modern building developments are required to include energy-efficient features; low energy LED lighting, PV panels and EV charging stations, which are best deployed over a DC power infrastructure.

For Logistics companies breaking ground on a new build site, or taking on a new lease, engaging in an early discussion about the benefits of DC microgrids is essential to estimate and access the full energy efficiency potential across a site.    

DC microgrids can be retrofitted into any site, to support multiple technology systems. This means that multiple technology systems can be connected, whether in the same installation or over time.  

At Adams Park, Landways’ first live DC microgrid project, five technology systems have been connected: stadium-wide Wi-Fi, audio, surveillance cameras, emergency phones and wired network points. Using a DC microgrid, we calculate the energy required for these systems has been reduced by 16%  when compared to a traditional deployment of the same systems.

What are the Cost Benefits of Energy Efficient DC Microgrids?

Increased energy efficiency reduces cost, resulting in a higher return on investment.

Landways’ engineering experts have estimated that by deploying a DC microgrid, coupled with renewable energy and intelligent power storage on a 100,000m2 warehouse site, a business could save up to £2.75M* in energy costs over ten years.

*Year 0 Assumptions; 12kWh/m2 deployed over DC Microgrid, principally lighting, from total site power of 40kWh/m2; Microgrid efficiency savings of 12%; Current fixed business tariff (March 2022): £0.32 per kWh Year 10 Assumptions: Growth to 50kWh/m2 deployed over DC Microgrid via additional power requirements for EV charging, heat pumps inc, standalone battery usage; Efficiency savings over DC Microgrid grow to 15% as benefits from integration with PV and battery deployments kick in; Future grid power tariff £0.50 per kWh based on average 5% pa growth over period.

Want to know more about deploying a DC Microgrid at your business?

Book a no-obligation discussion with a Landways expert today.