Ports of Auckland Ltd (POAL) and the University of Waikato (UoW) are working together on a pilot programme to establish a DC micro grid for buildings at the port and its freight hubs. The collaboration with UoW is part of POAL’s long-term strategy to use more sustainable energy systems and to develop enduring partnerships, and is an enabler of the port’s 2040 Zero Emissions roadmap.

Houses and offices have traditionally been wired for AC (alternating current). Solar panels produce DC (direct current) energy, which needs to be converted to AC before it can be used. Up to 10 percent of energy can be lost in the conversion process, and that costs money. More and more products, including fridges, washing machines and televisions are now being built to work internally on DC electricity, giving people an option to change from AC and to power directly with DC, therefore avoiding costly energy loss.

Associate Professor Nihal Kularatna, of UoW has been working on an international committee looking at the advantages of DC in buildings and has since started to promote its use, carrying out workshops on energy storage. POAL has seen the value of a DC micro grid, beginning with the installation of solar panels and using DC for lighting, and then introducing it into air conditioning and white goods and finally, computer and information systems.

POAL has built a prototype of the research project in a 40ft container and have had it on display at the annual port open day and intend to continue using it as a public engagement tool to share information about the project and the Port’s wider sustainability programme.

For the project, POAL and UoW have also partnered with local company Power Technology, who have provided the solar panels. All three partners see value in the partnership and agree that more value will be gained by working together.