Data Centre Review: Smart Grids Enabling Energy Transition

Find out how data centres can play an active role in energy transition towards zero-carbon if they ditch their doubts about battery storage and demand response.

Ahead of Data Centre World 2020, Riello UPS Managing Director Leo Craig speaks to Data Centre Review (DCR) magazine about the role of smart grid-ready UPS.

Leo suggests the ongoing rollout of superfast 5G will place even greater demands on data centres. This in turn will increase the need for power. All at a time when the way we generate electricity is going through huge change.

Did you know 2019 was the first year where zero-carbon sources including renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels (48.5% vs 43%)?

These unpredictable sources require National Grid to embrace mechanisms such as demand side response to balance supply with demand in real-time.

So far, data centres have been reluctant to play an active role in such energy transition. In his DCR article, Leo explains why this approach is misplaced.

Master+ Making An Impact

The piece goes on to explore the Master+ model developed by Riello UPS in partnership with RWE.

This combines a smart grid-ready UPS, increased battery storage capacity, 24/7 monitoring and risk-free access to energy trading markets.

Data centres benefit for two major reasons. RWE subsidises the system’s premium batteries to significantly reduce the upfront costs. It also takes on all the risks of trading on the energy market.

Another advantage turns data centre operators’ long-standing apathy to energy storage on its head.

They fear that using batteries for anything else than emergency backup places their much-needed resilience at risk. But without the benefit of massively expensive battery monitoring systems, data centres can’t be sure whether their lead-acid batteries will really work or not.

With the Master+, sophisticated monitoring is mandatory. So operators know when there’s any cell deterioration and batteries need replacing. So instead of undermining resilience, the Master+ model actually improves it.

Lessons From August’s Blackout

Leo goes on to highlight the major power cut that struck last August. A lightning strike sent two plants offline, with the loss of generation sending grid frequency plummeting.

More than 1 million people had their electric cut off through Low Frequency Demand Disconnection (LFDD) to prevent the entire National Grid going down.

One reason why the blackout was relatively short-lived was the network’s 1 GW-plus power reserve. Nearly half of this backup (472 MW) came from battery storage.

A likely fallout from August’s incident is a big increase in the £170 million already spent on Firm Frequency Response contracts.

As energy transition continues, smart solutions such as the Master+ enable data centres to harness the full power of their UPS systems. They get financial and performance gains, all while helping secure electricity supplies.