Put your UPS to Work Generating New Revenue

Aug. 24, 2020
Ed Spears, Product Marketing Manager, Eaton Critical Power Solutions Division, explores how to make your uninterruptible power supply – or UPS system – to work creating new revenue for your data center.

Ed Spears, Product Marketing Manager, Eaton Critical Power Solutions Division, explores how to put your uninterruptible power supply — or UPS system — to work creating new revenue for your data center. 

Ed Spears, Product Marketing Manager, Eaton Critical Power Solutions Division

Imagine having the ability to transform your data center’s uninterruptible power system (UPS) from an under-utilized, energy-gobbling consumer into a value-generating, eco-friendly asset. 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 this opportunity.

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 have increasingly turned to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and most recently, UPS systems.

Monetize Your UPS Investment

While 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 the 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 5-7 years.

Yet the introduction of lithium-ion batteries has dramatically altered the scenario, providing a 10- to 15-year lifespan and eight times the cycle rate of traditional VRLA batteries. In addition, their smaller and lighter footprint preserves valuable real estate in today’s data center sites ── and can even be located outdoors ── while also facilitating an eco-friendly solution. Data centers using lithium-ion can now participate in DER programs, turning UPSs into profit centers while supporting initiatives that help grid operators manage demand.

Data center sites aren’t the only potential application where DERs can add value. Hospitals, higher education entities and other campus-type environments often have dozens of mid- to large-size UPS/battery systems capable of working together in an aggregated manner to achieve the same benefits. 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 Affords Significant 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 1 MW data center will devour 160M kW 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.

How a DER UPS Operates with a Utility Provider

The implications of utilizing a UPS as a DER are significant for both utility and data center operators. By relying on existing lithium-powered UPSs, organizations are not only able to lower energy bills, optimize consumption and generate additional revenue, but also contribute to clean energy goals. There are several approaches by which data center operators can monetize their UPS investment, including:

Peak shaving ── In this use, the UPS slowly discharges its battery during a power peak to reduce demand at the site and on the grid, recharging its batteries when demand is lowest. Only excess battery and power capacity are used for this activity, preventing the data center from ever losing its backup requirement.

Rather than relegating your lithium-powered UPS to sit idly by waiting for the next brief power outage, you can now put your equipment to work creating a new revenue stream and lower energy costs.

Demand response ── Utility companies rely on this approach where the UPS either slowly discharges its battery to reduce the load on the grid, or recharges batteries to bolster the load, helping to stabilize voltage and frequency.

Grid interactivity ── In this mode, the UPS can either draw power from the grid or supply power from its batteries, helping grid operators mitigate variations in voltage and frequency as load demands change.

Participation in any of these activities is at the discretion of the UPS owner, with the data center maintaining control of its energy and choosing how much capacity to offer and when. Operators may be incentivized by direct payments, lucrative rebates or a reduction in utility bills.

DER is Not Just a Concept ── it’s a Proven Technology

Eaton not only understands the DER process, but has products available today that can be used to start reaping the benefits immediately. In fact, multiple Eaton customers have already achieved the advantages of channeling their UPS into a DER. Within Microsoft’s Innovation Center in Boydton, Va., for example, the energy storage capabilities of a lithium-ion Power Xpert 9395P UPS was harnessed to put Microsoft’s assets to work around the clock. Eaton added a layer of software algorithms and controls to support interaction with the power grid, enabling the UPS to provide and receive energy. As a result, Microsoft has optimized its utility bills and participated in frequency regulation initiatives that create additional revenue.

Ed Spears is the Product Marketing Manager for the Eaton Critical Power Solutions Division.

Eaton’s EnergyAware UPS technology works to enable the company’s customers to optimize CAPEX and OPEX investments that cannot be avoided, because a UPS will always be required to ensure a site’s availability and resilience. Rather than relegating your lithium-powered UPS to sit idly by waiting for the next brief power outage, the technology is designed to put your equipment to work creating a new revenue stream and lower energy costs.

About the Author

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