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UPS: A catalyst for sustainability


Arturo di Filippi, global offering manager for large power systems at Vertiv, explores how your UPS may have more green potential than you think.

Whilst the pandemic placed sustainability on the back seat in 2020, there’s no doubt it is resurfacing as a top business priority this year. The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, signed by major European cloud and data centre operators, is the latest effort to better utilise energy usage as data centres and energy companies look to become more efficient.

Yet the transition to a more sustainable future requires a big change in infrastructure, as mixing old and new energy sources in a legacy grid is challenging. That’s why businesses are turning to Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to better manage energy demands and help sustainability efforts. 

A business stabiliser  

The UPS acts as a piece of business insurance. It provides clean back-up power to IT and critical infrastructure networks so, in the case of an outage, these systems offer power to safely shutdown workstations and allow back-up generators to kick-in. They can also provide up to several hours of power for certain types of equipment.

Ultimately, a UPS can mean the difference between business as usual or the loss of data and hours of productivity. Figures from the Uptime Institute highlight the huge cost implications of a power failure, with 48% of outages now costing firms between $100,000 and $1m (compared to just 28% in 2019). The investment in a UPS is therefore a small price to pay for a guaranteed power lifeline.

More than a back-up

The UPS will always play a role in mitigating the risk of a major power failure. But as the UK’s national grid network becomes more reliable, with more than £378m worth of contracts awarded to ensure consistent power, the UPS can do more than support potential outages. UPS batteries can store energy; so, if the power is not needed at that moment in time, it can be held until demand requires.

The UPS, therefore, can play a crucial role in sustainable energy usage. Furthermore, companies can also come off the grid at peak times and use UPS devices to become more self-sufficient. The potential benefits from energy storage services can be huge; a 10MW facility, for example, could expect to generate revenue of more than €1 million per annum.

Renewable support 

In addition to peak shaving and demand management supporting the energy grid, UPS batteries can also help in the shift to renewable energy. This is because, when natural energy sources such as solar and wind cannot meet demand, utilities often fall back on carbon-based sources. But the UPS can help maintain a consistent and reliable stream of power. 

For example, in Ireland, SSE Renewables and Irish-owned Echelon have agreed to develop a joint 520MW offshore wind farm and meet the power needs of Echelon’s data centres. These data centres will be able to use UPS to store excess energy for periods when there is not enough wind energy to meet demand.   

Using the UPS in this way builds assurance amongst businesses that renewables can be used without risking power interruption. This approach could be replicated in the UK, enabling data centres to contribute to the UK’s efforts in embracing green sources. This will be important moving forward as the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has urged the UK to increase its renewable electricity target from 50% to 65% by 2030.

Unlock UPS potential 

Sustainability is here to stay, and industries must take control of their contribution to greener practices. Data centre managers are in a prime position to initiate better energy efficiency by using UPS batteries proactively, not just reactively.

This approach best supports both the grid and the shift to renewables. It’s time to unlock the full potential of the UPS and recognise it as more than a backup, but a critical component to a sustainable future. 

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