Networks Europe Jan-Feb 2019 | Page 38

38 FUTURE-PROOFING Working smarter not harder By Leo Craig, General Manager, Riello UPS Rethink the role of your UPS and turn an underutilised asset into a valuable money-maker… 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,