As global power grid operators actively seek new ways to meet escalating power demands and abandon the cost-prohibitive and time-consuming method of building power-generating plants, they are increasingly turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and pumped hydroelectric. Recently, there’s been a new face popping up in this crowd: data center uninterruptible power systems (UPSs).
Thanks to technology that now enables a lithium-ion-powered UPS to become a distributed energy resource (DER), a growing number of large-scale data center operators are embracing the opportunity to transform their power system from an under-utilized, energy-gobbling consumer into a value-generating, eco-friendly asset. These UPS solutions enable facilities to support sustainable energy solutions, optimize the cost of powering buildings and earn additional revenue from assets currently deployed, while maintaining complete control of their deployed systems.
TURN YOUR UPS INTO A PROFIT CENTER
Although most colocation, hyperscale, cloud and other large enterprise data centers have deployed substantial battery banks to deliver adequate backup in the event of a blackout, these batteries can sit unused for large amounts of time, since power outages occur infrequently. In addition, traditional UPS systems containing VRLA batteries monopolize significant floor space, while requiring regular maintenance and battery replacement every five to seven years.
Yet the introduction of lithium-ion batteries has dramatically altered the scenario, providing a 10-to-15-year lifespan and up to eight times the cycle rate of traditional VRLA batteries. Their smaller and lighter footprint preserves valuable real estate in today’s data center sites and even can be located outdoors, while also facilitating an eco-friendly solution. Data centers using lithium-ion now can participate in DER programs, turning new or existing UPSs into profit centers, while supporting initiatives that help grid operators manage demand.
Moreover, data centers can add value to applications such as hospitals, higher education entities and other campus-type environments where it is common to have dozens of mid-to large-size UPS/battery systems working together in an aggregated manner. The implications are significant for both utilities and data center operators as DER technology can be utilized to lower demand and peak time charges, as well as contribute to clean energy goals, all the while ensuring a 24/7 vital backup solution.
A DER UPS CAN RACK UP BIG SAVINGS
The ability to use an existing asset to create a new revenue stream and lower energy costs is especially valuable considering today’s skyrocketing utility prices. In fact, energy ranks as the second highest operating cost in 70 percent of worldwide data centers, surpassed only by labor, according to Gartner. A 1MW data center will devour 160M kilowatt-hours of energy over a 10-year period—equivalent to the amount consumed by 1,400 typical U.S. households in the same time span.
UPS systems can now go beyond power protection and function as a key component that controls and manages how a data center consumes energy. By deploying a UPS as a DER, it operates with firmware and an external controller that interface with the utility company. Further control measures can be set by the UPS display to enable/disable features, set limits on operation and view the status of incoming power.