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What steps can data centres take to avoid potential blackouts this winter?

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Earlier this year, National Grid warned that in a worst-case scenario, areas across the UK could face blackouts lasting approximately three hours. However, despite the warning, it continues to be critical that data centres continue operating during this scenario — so what steps can data centres take to avoid potential blackouts this winter?

DataVita has revealed the steps that it is taking to ensure continuous operation of its DV1 facility in Chapelhall, Lanarkshire, in response to the prospect of blackouts this winter. 

The Tier III data centre has increased the amount of fuel it stores on site from three days’ to two weeks’ worth. That will allow it to operate its diesel generators for extended periods of time, ensuring uptime. To further protect its fuel levels, the company has signed eight-hour service level agreements with multiple supply partners to supply fuel to its data centre. 

Additionally, the data centre’s load is protected by uninterruptible power supplies, which can carry the load for a short time while the generators come online. According to DataVita, the generators at its DV1 data centre are designed to provide back-up power within one minute, meaning the UPS doesn’t need to carry the load for very long. 

DV1 hosts and processes the data of thousands of businesses and around three million people in Scotland, providing critical IT infrastructure to local authorities, hospitals, and a range of other public sector institutions. That’s why it’s vitally important that it keeps running during a blackout. 

However, other data centres could take additional measures to protect their loads. In the event of a blackout during the day, it’s possible that on-site renewable energy generation that is stored in battery energy storage could help plug any potential grid blackouts. 

The UK Government has already had discussions with many data centre operators to ensure that they have the support they need if the worst-case scenario becomes a reality. Given the upcoming cold snap, dubbed the ‘Troll of Trondheim’, it’s possible that National Grid faces tighter margins in the coming days — so it’s vitally important that your back up plan is ready now. 

Danny Quinn, MD of DataVita, noted, “Reports of potential blackouts this winter have been widespread and we are acutely aware of the duty of care we have to our customers – particularly given many of them provide vital services to the public. We have always taken power resilience very seriously, but in light of the current energy crisis we decided to take extra steps to enhance the measures we have in place.

“IT is an integral part of the way most organisations function. We would encourage any business or public sector service to speak to their supply chain about what they are doing to mitigate the potential disruption blackouts could bring about. Infrastructure design has to be complemented by strong maintenance standards, which we are doing through a range of means, including running our generators weekly and carrying out regular on-load testing.”

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