Data Centre Solutions (DCS): Data Centre Energy Optimisation Post COVID-19

We explain how advances in UPS technology can assist with energy optimisation in busy data centres.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed things all across society. It also thrust the vital role played by data centres into the spotlight, as the conduit for increased remote working and unprecedented use of streaming services and the internet to lessen lockdown boredom.

At lockdown’s peak, electricity consumption across the UK was roughly 20% down on average.

This enabled the country to smash records for coal-free power generation, with renewables often able to meet the nation’s needs.

But electricity use is slowly creeping back to pre-pandemic levels. And the Uptime Institute’s latest global data centre survey reveals that data centre efficiency has flatlined in recent years.

In Autumn’s bumper edition of Data Centre Solutions (DCS), we explore how advances in UPS system technology could offer data centre operators a helping hand in keeping energy optimisation at the forefront of their minds.

Steps To Energy Optimisation

Our first tip focuses on whether there might be long-term gain in a hardware refresh.

The Uptime Institute report suggests many operators are starting to leave it longer between upgrading their equipment.

With a UPS system, the prevailing wisdom suggests a maximum service life of 10-12 years. But depending on whether you’ve a legacy installation, it may make sense to refresh earlier in the cycle.

We point to the efficiency gains of around 5-6% you can get with a modern, transformerless UPS compared to the old-style transformer-based solutions.

Transformerless UPS systems offer other advantages too. They’re lighter and smaller, while they don’t generate as much heat so need less energy-intensive air conditioning.

They also have a latter efficiency curve, which means they can still achieve high efficiency when carrying low loads.

We then move onto the benefits of modular UPS, which make it easier for data centre operators to flexibly match their power protection to their actual load.

Many data centre UPS installations are oversized for a much higher load than they end up running. This inefficiency wastes energy and costs more to maintain.

But with modular solutions, you only install the “power” you need, building up capacity with individual power modules.

Not only does this approach eradicate wasteful oversizing, it gives operators unparalleled scalability.

Say a colocation gets a rush of clients buying rack space. All they need to do is add in extra modules to meet their increased load requirements.

Advantages Of ECO Mode

Our article turns to another energy optimisation tip – the use of a UPS’s dedicated economy operating mode, commonly known as ECO mode.

This function sees the UPS operate similar to a standby solution, with the critical load powered by the bypass line (mains electricity). The inverter is off but ready to take over if the utility supply experiences problems.

Running in ECO mode delivers up to 99% efficiency, a big increase compared to most UPS in operating mode.

However, there’s no power conditioning and if there’s a problem with the mains there’s a break in continuous power until the load gets transferred back to the inverter.

Technological advances have resulted in an advanced ECO mode, commonly known as Active ECO.

The main difference to standard ECO is that the inverter remains on at all times, even though it’s still the bypass line that powers the critical load.

This ensures quicker power transfer if there’s an issue with the load, while the inverter also helps to absorb harmonic currents, thus assisting with power quality.

Active ECO does see a drop of 0.5-1% in efficiency because of the energy needed to keep the inverter powered. But it is still more efficient than pure online UPS, so does reduce power consumption.