Data Centre Management (DCM): Smart Grids And The Future Role Of UPS Systems

We explain how the natural transition to electricity smart grids gives data centre operators the chance to turn their UPS systems from an underutilised asset into a valuable money-maker.

Data centre have never been more important for the success of society. The 900,000m2 of UK server rooms fully exploit the power of our millions of smartphones, interconnected devices, and gadgets.

But they can only do so with actual power – electricity (and lots of it). The country is transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity generated by low carbon renewables.

These distributed smart grids offer data centre operators an opportunity to fully embrace this energy revolution.

We explain just how in the Summer edition of Data Centre Management (DCM) magazine.

Time To Join The Smart Grid Revolution?

Data centre administrators have perhaps naturally been slow to jump on the energy storage bandwagon. In their view, UPS backup power is there for a reason i.e. to minimise downtime when there’s a power failure.

However, that means uninterruptible power supplies often sit idly in the background, very rarely called upon. By rethinking the role of their UPS, they can turn it into something with the potential to work proactively 24/7, not just when there’s a blackout.

Our article explores the advantages of using lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries with a UPS rather than the more traditional sealed lead-acid cells.

Leo Craig Riello UPS "lithium-ion batteries & demand side response can be a real game-changer"
POWERING THE FUTURE? Li-ion cells can transform a UPS into a ‘virtual power plant’

While there’s still a significant cost difference, the more expensive Li-ion makes it far easier to turn a UPS into a virtual power plant participating in the demand side response schemes that help balance the electricity network.

These mechanisms include dynamic Firm Frequency Response (FFR), which aims to ensure a stable frequency 1% within a target of 50 Hz. The fast ramp times of Li-ion cells make them ideal for FFR, which is available to businesses that can quickly turn down power consumption or feed stored energy back into the grid.

The benefits of using UPS power in smart grids are numerous. Lower energy bills because cheap off-peak power can be used instead of peak-time mains. Thousands of pounds saved in grid tariff charges. Additional revenues from participating in demand response.

And we reveal why all these advantages don’t come at the cost of compromising system resilience.

With sealed lead-acid, battery monitoring is optional and oft-overlooked because of the additional cost. So can you ever be 100% certain those battery blocks will spring into life when needed?

With Li-ion cells, though, it’s mandatory.

Read the full article about smart grids and UPS from page 58 of the Summer edition of DCM magazine