Leo Craig, general manager of Riello UPS discusses the changing energy landscape and what this means for the evolving role of the UPS.

As winter approaches and we face warnings about the increasing risk of energy blackouts, now is a good time for companies to look at the power infrastructure that supports their critical business operations and ask if it is resilient enough to cope with the energy challenges ahead.

After the early closure of some of the country’s ageing coal-fired power plants, the growing risk to security of the UK’s electricity supply has been well publicised. This, combined with the limited investment in power generation capability planned in the next decade (other than from renewables, particularly wind power) has brought the National Grid’s long term reliability of supply increasingly into question.

At the same time, European directives on energy management (directive 2012/27/UE) will be coming into force before 2016 which state that companies in all member states will be required to undergo an energy audit to ensure that they are doing their part to reduce power consumption.

For businesses running operations that are dependent on a clean, reliable power supply, these developments mean that they will not only need to take steps to reduce reliance on traditional grid supply but also to manage their energy consumption more responsibly if they are to continue to be competitive in this new energy landscape.

Central to this change of approach will be the adoption of new technologies, such as smart grid and on-site power generation, and redefining the role of the UPS within the power chain. Where UPS technology has known benefits in terms of power quality, business continuity and guarantee of power supply, in the future its role as a form of energy storage will become increasingly critical.

Developing viable energy storage technologies is one of the big challenges when it comes to connecting more renewables to the grid. The principle here being that energy is stored when it is not required so that it can be supplied when demand reaches a peak.

In the past, energy storage was challenging because it required a device known as an energy accumulator. Battery technology was also a barrier to adoption since Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries had a slow recharge time (4-6 hours to 80%) and a limited number of charge/recharge cycles before failing.

The development of UPS technologies such as Super-Caps, DC Flywheels and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has opened up the field of energy storage and increased the options available to businesses. Li-ion batteries, for example, have greater cyclic properties (10,000 cycles compared to VRLA’s 500 cycles) and a faster rate of recharge which makes them suitable for energy storage applications. When a UPS is deployed with Li-ion batteries and used within a smart grid configuration, it can act as a form of alternative energy storage.

Of course nobody can predict the future but it is becoming increasingly clear that in the face of the changing energy landscape, business as usual is simply not an option for data centres or any other operation where a continuous electrical supply is vital. Only those who plan today for less reliance on the National Grid and smarter energy management will have the power to adapt for tomorrow.

 

Riello UPS Ltd – UK subsidiary of Riello RPS S.p.A

U50 Clywedog Road North, Wrexham Industrial Estate, Wrexham, LL13 9XN

Switchboard: +44-(0)1978 729 297 – Sales: (UK) 0800 269 394 – Fax: +44-(0)1978 729 290

Service: +44-(0)1978 729 281 – Fax: +44-(0)1978 729 291 – Website: www.riello-ups.co.uk