Russell Payne, application engineering manager at Vertiv, explores how uninterrupted power systems can help data centres increase grid stability.

As artificial intelligence (AI) and high performance computing (HPC) continue to accelerate the growth of digital infrastructure, the demand for stable, reliable and sustainable power sources has surged. The good news is that statistics from the International Energy Agency show that renewable energy has surpassed fossil fuels worldwide as the main source of new electricity generation. 

However, it’s not all plain sailing as the transfer of generation from large fossil fuel power plants has left power networks less predictable and more susceptible to network faults. As a result, matching demand to available supply and building in greater system resilience is the most pressing challenge for the renewable-powered grid. 

When mismatches in energy from grid-based generators and consumers occur, grid frequencies begin to change. Then, when supply rises above demand, the frequency rises, and vice versa. The greater the intermittency of energy supply with renewable inputs, the more often imbalances arise. Furthermore, traditional frequency regulation is too slow for today’s demands where containment reserves must be able to increase or reduce electricity demand within milli-seconds.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) Systems

Data centre operators have the capacity to use their UPS systems to help balance grid services. These help to maintain a continuous supply of power. In case of unexpected disruptions, such as mains power failure, UPS systems typically provide emergency power for a short time (five to 10 minutes). They provide enough power for the IT load until the grid is back online or until additional grid generators kick in.

UPS systems, as well as battery energy storage systems (BESS) can alleviate grid infrastructure constraints and offer equipment owners the potential to provide grid services and generate new revenue streams, as well as cost savings on electricity use. These systems can also provide grid-balancing services. They enable energy independence and bolster sustainability efforts at mission critical facilities, providing flexibility in the use of utility power and are a critical step in the deployment of a dynamic power architecture. BESS solutions allow organisations to fully leverage the capabilities of hybrid power systems that include solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cells, and other forms of alternative energy.

According to Omdia’s Market Landscape: Battery Energy Storage Systems report, “Enabling the BESS to interact with the smart electric grid is an innovative way of contributing to the grid through the balance of energy supply and demand, the integration of renewable energy resources into the power equation, the reduction or deferral of grid infrastructure investment, and the creation of new revenue streams for stakeholders.”

Leading by example

Recognising this opportunity, Vertiv, Conapto and Fever got together to give data centres the opportunity to play an active role in stabilising the grid whilst unlocking new revenue streams. 

Conapto is a data centre provider offering colocation, connectivity and cloud services in Stockholm, Sweden. The company wanted to maximise the potential of the entire capacity of its UPS, demonstrating that data centres are not only consumers of energy but can also actively contribute to power generation, grid balancing and the circular economy. 

This innovative solution, supported with lithium-ion battery technology, provides high capacity in a compact footprint, allowing Conapto to maximise the number of racks and servers and achieve operating efficiency up to 99%. 

With the introduction of Dynamic Grid Support, Conapto is not only enhancing operational efficiency in its data centres, but also contributing to grid stability, and sustainability when paired with energy alternatives. The solution contributed to ensuring Conapto is a step closer to meeting the industry’s environmental and efficiency compliance standards, as the UPS system shows enhanced performances for maximum energy saving and CO2 emission reduction, maximum system flexibility for all installations, and reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). It is also helping Conapto to actively contribute to grid stability, potentially monetising backup capacity that would otherwise be left idle.

  • Infrastructure & Cloud

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