Low voltage power distribution system provides incubator for energy-related student projects

Dale H. Litwhiler, Elizabeth Wiggins-Lopez

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


An emerging technology in building power distribution involves the use of a room ceiling tile support grid to create a low voltage "microgrid" network. With this network, 24VDC power is routed throughout the room via conductors embedded in the drop-ceiling support structure. Users can then tap into the low voltage supply from any location in the room. The microgrid effort is organized by a consortium of industry and university partners exploring the use of low voltage DC indoor power distribution for a variety of commercial, industrial and residential applications. An example of applications on the load side includes lighting and ventilation devices. Input power for the microgrid can be derived from many sources including standard building AC power and alternative sources such as solar. A 24VDC ceiling system was installed in one room of the engineering building at Penn State - Berks. The room serves as both laboratory and classroom space. Students in the engineering technology programs have been involved with designing and fabricating devices to use and/or control power derived from the 24VDC microgrid system. Devices include room lighting control and portable device charging stations. The low voltage microgrid provides a relatively safe environment in which to experiment with new devices for occupied space environmental control. Students are very motivated to create devices that positively influence their learning environment. This paper presents details of student projects which interface with the microgrid system. Details of the microgrid infrastructure are also presented and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2013
Event120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2013Jun 26 2013


Other120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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