Could holdouts such as San Francisco ultimately have the last laugh? The spread of both DC generators (such as photovoltaic panels) and DC loads (such as cellphones, flat-panel televisions, LED lights, and even electric cars) is inspiring a small but growing niche for DC microgrids that link the two together. If such building-wide circuits grow into neighborhood grids and, ultimately, meld together to form citywide DC grids, this circuit of electrical history will finally be closed.
Con Edison’s Electric Operations Manager Fred Simms, an active employee for 52 years, cut a ceremonial cable on 40th Street just east of Fifth Avenue today to retire the utility’s direct current (DC) service. The supply of DC service to New York customers dates back 125 years, to the advent of Thomas Edison’s first electric generating station on Pearl Street in 1882.
In January 1998, Consolidated Edison began a program to eliminate DC service in its operating territory. At that time there were over 4,600 DC customers. By 2006, sixty remained. Between then and today, when the last customer at 10 East 40th Street was switched to rectifiers on their side of the meter to generate direct current to supply its building’s elevators and sprinkler system, Con Edison has been switching DC customers to alternating current.
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