Data Centre Solutions (DCS): Innovision Supplement – Demand Side Response And Energy Optimisation

We feature in Innovision, the first edition of the newly relaunched DCS magazine, and explain the benefits of demand side response to data centre operators.

This month sees the return of a familiar friend. Data Centre Solutions (DCS) magazine was a popular digital-only publication bringing the latest data centre news and opinion for years.

Following a near two-year hiatus, July marks its welcome return. And it’s back with a bang with a special edition called Innovision that promises to provide “an annual snapshot of the data centre industry”.

Innovision clocks in at a mammoth 126 digital pages and features the views of several influential industry thought-leaders.

Naturally, as a supplier of proven uninterruptible power supplies to data centres across the UK, Riello UPS was invited to participate.

Innovision focuses on several hot industry topics including automation, hybrid architecture, and cybersecurity. It also shines a spotlight on energy optimisation, a subject close to our hearts.

Riello UPS Managing Director Leo Craig penned a thought-leadership piece outlining why data centre operators should embrace the opportunities offered by demand side response (DSR).

We reproduce the article in full below.

Innovision July 2020 Article

Demand side response. Mention that phrase to a data centre operator and you’re still likely to be met with a shrug of indifference.

Or the well-rehearsed retort that any potential reward doesn’t compare to their perceived risk: backup power systems and batteries exist for one reason and one reason only – to prevent damaging downtime when there’s a power problem. Using them for anything else, it’s argued, undermines that non-negotiable insurance.

But when you look at how the way we’re generating power is changing, is such binary thinking still viable? Last year saw more electricity come from zero-carbon sources like renewables than fossil fuels for the first time in history.

It’s almost inevitable this trend will continue in the years to come. That means smart grids and demand side response won’t just be desirable to help National Grid balance supply with demand and keep a stable frequency, it’ll frankly be a necessity to keep the country’s lights on.

So thinking back to the data centre… They all depend on uninterruptible power supplies to minimise that underlying threat of disruption.

But here in the UK, how often do we actually experience a major power cut? Although it’s a must-have insurance, UPS is often an underutilised and expensive asset.

Time For A Rethink?

That’s why data centres should view DSR as an opportunity rather than a burden. It gives them the chance to radically rethink the role of a UPS.

Firstly, there are the financial opportunities. Batteries can store cheaper off-peak electricity, then release this power at busier, more expensive times, cutting energy bills and grid tariff charges by potentially thousands of pounds per megawatt.

There’s also the chance to sell stored power from batteries back into the grid via DSR mechanisms like Frequency Response, which help keep the network balanced and stable.

Batteries In Charge

Think back to last August and the major blackout that affected many parts of the country during that fateful Friday rush hour.

National Grid deploying nearly 500 MW of battery storage in a matter of milliseconds was one of the key reasons why it could restore frequency within minutes and keep disruption to a minimum.

But what about the risk of using batteries in this way? Unless you’ve installed hugely expensive battery monitoring and management systems, it’s tricky to assess the true condition of traditional sealed lead-acid batteries.

Hand on heart, can you be 100% sure they’ll work when required?

However, to participate in DSR your premium batteries must be backed up by sophisticated monitoring.

That way you know exactly when there’s any cell deterioration and if you have any blocks that require replacing. Rather than undermining resilience, smart grid-ready UPS will actually enhance your reliability.

Energy bills account for up to 60% of a data centre’s running costs. For bigger sites, these electricity bills run into millions of pounds.

Embracing smart grids and DSR will give operators greater control of a such a fundamental part of their business, all while helping to improve the security of both their own – and wider society’s – power supplies.