There has been a debate going on for some years if the traditional AC or new DC power distribution is best approach to power a data center. The DC power side has been pushing their technology with claims of quite considerable power savings. In many published articles, expected improvements of 10% to 30% in efficiency have been claimed for DC over AC. I have had my doubts of the numbers on their promises. Now there is some new data on AC vs DC issue available.
White paper compares AC vs. DC power distribution for data centers article tells that a new white paper from APC by Schneider Electric provides a quantitative comparison of high efficiency AC vs. DC power distribution platforms for data centers. The latest high efficiency AC and DC power distribution architectures are shown by the analysis to have virtually the same efficiency, suggesting that a move to a DC-based architecture is unwarranted on the basis of efficiency
A Quantitative Comparison of High Efficiency AC vs. DC Power Distribution for Data Centers paper demonstrates that the best AC power distribution systems today already achieve essentially the same efficiency as hypothetical future DC systems. It also tells that most of the quoted efficiency gains in the popular press are misleading, inaccurate, or false (like I have suspected to be for some time). And unlike virtually all other articles and papers on this subject, this paper includes citations and references for all of the quantitative data (which is very good).
The paper first describes that there are five methods of power distribution that can be realistically used in data centers: two basic types of alternating current (AC) power distribution and three basic types of direct current (DC) power distribution. These five types are explained and analyzed.
One AC and one DC, offer superior electrical efficiency. The paper focuses on comparing only those two highest efficiency distribution methods, which are very likely to become the preferred method for distributing power in future data centers. The data in this paper demonstrates that the best AC power distribution systems today already achieve essentially the same efficiency as hypothetical future DC systems.
The best AC system is based on the existing predominant 400/230 V AC distribution system currently used in virtually all data centers outside of North America and Japan. Increasing Data Center Efficiency by Using Improved High Density Power Distribution white paper gives details how it could be used in USA. It says that the use of the international 230/400 V distribution system instead of the USA standard 120/208 system can save 56% in the lifetime cost of the distribution system, and save floor space and weight loading.
The preferred DC system is based on a conceptual 380 V DC distribution system (consensus in the literature as a preferred standard) supplying IT equipment that has been modified to accept DC power. In the proposed international ETSI standard for DC distribution for data centers, the 380V DC system is actually created with the midpoint at ground potential to keep the maximum system voltage to ground to within +/- 190 V.
Based on the data I think the 400/230 V AC distribution system is the best way to go in data centers around the world.