By Leo Craig, General Manager,
Rethink the role of your UPS and
turn an underutilised asset into a
With around 60,000m 2 of new data centres currently being
built, UK storage and processing capacity will soon top
900,000m 2 . That’s the equivalent of around 140 full-size
football pitches. And with the number of smartphones,
wearables, virtual assistants and other Internet of Things-
enabled devices set to double from around 270 million now
to 625 million by 2023, Britain would certainly finish high in
any Premier League table for interconnectivity.
The thing is, all this processing power doesn’t come
without cost. Despite great strides to improve energy
efficiency, a data centre is still a power-hungry beast. It’s
not unusual for the largest facilities to consume 30 GWh of
electricity a year, a £3 million annual bill. Globally, they’re
predicted to use one-fifth of all energy by 2025.
In this country, we face the ongoing challenge – and
associated uncertainty – of a rapidly changing energy mix
too. Analysis by Carbon Brief reveals an ongoing decline in
power generation since 2005. In fact, 2018 saw the amount
of electricity produced in the UK fall to its lowest level for
almost a quarter of a century (1994).
Traditional coal, nuclear, and thermal power stations are
being phased out and replaced by renewable sources, which
now contribute a third of the UK’s total electricity supply.
But these low-carbon sources are more difficult to predict,
making it harder for the National Grid to balance supply and
demand. As we look to the future, decentralised smart grids
connecting together a diverse range of power sources in
real-time will be the only way we’ll be able to deliver secure
and stable power 365 days a year.
Data centre operators can’t afford to be left behind in
this changing landscape. And it’s their uninterruptible power
supply – the often unsung hero of their critical infrastructure
– that gives them the best chance to join the revolution.
Time to ditch the doubts
Battery storage is still treated with great suspicion by many
in the industry, despite its undoubted potential. For example,
if just 5% of peak need is met by demand side response
(DSR), it would produce the same amount of electricity as a
new nuclear power station. Until now though, 100% uptime
has been a data centre’s overriding priority. Why take the
perceived risk of using a UPS and its batteries for anything
other than its primary function as an emergency backup?
As we look to the future, however, if they don’t start
contributing towards creating a smarter electricity grid,
the power they rely on is likely to be compromised anyway.
Even though it’s invaluable insurance that keeps their server
rooms running in the event of a power problem, in reality,