Survey suggests data centres will play a big role in supporting power grids

A ground-breaking survey by research group Omdia has shown that, within the next four years, data centre operators will deploy uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) which are able to interact with power grids and support essential energy-management initiatives.

The use of renewable energy is growing on all fronts and is becoming the new normal in the data centre industry. The integration of variable renewable energy resources into a more dynamic electric grid comes with new challenges and technical requirements.

Data centres are in a unique position to increase the reliability of the electric grid by allowing access to a part of their backup power systems. Data centre UPSs have evolved to attain high efficiency, smaller footprints, improved battery energy storage systems (ESS), and monitoring systems.

Smart grid-ready UPSs incorporate technologies that enable the equipment to sense and interact with power grids, helping data centres to become smarter about the amount and timing of energy consumption, contributing to the pursuit of a more sustainable data centre.

“The integration of renewable energy into the smart electric grid can benefit from smart grid ready UPS, to smooth out the unpredictability of renewable resources, balancing energy supply and demand, and to reduce or defer electric grid infrastructure investment”, said Moises Levy Ph.D, principal analyst and lead of Omdia’s data centre power, cooling and sustainability research practice. “Manufacturers like Eaton, Schneider Electric, and Vertiv are already offering UPSs with these capabilities.”

To capture all viewpoints of this critical subject, Omdia surveyed a combination of data centre operators, engineering, architecture, and consulting firms, as well as, utility companies, across North America, the Nordics, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Australia.

The nearly 380 respondents indicated that the top driver for adopting smart grid-ready UPS is contributing to sustainability initiatives. This was followed by technology innovation pioneer, and reputation and competitive advantage. Importantly, the lion’s share of respondents indicated they are confident that using smart grid-ready UPS will not put their mission-critical workloads at risk.

Cloud service providers were pointed out as the vertical that is most likely to benefit from smart grid-ready UPS by nearly half of the survey respondents. However, enterprises from all vertical industries are a part of the conversation as long as they operate a data centre. From a regional perspective, the Nordics, and UK and Ireland are the two regions leading the number of UPS with capabilities to interact with the grid being deployed.

About 80 per cent of respondents estimated that 10 to 50 per cent of the capacity of batteries in the data centre today is excess and can be potentially used to support the electric grid. This would be a significant enabler to the integration of variable renewable energy sources into power grids. Most respondents indicated that solar and wind were the two microgrid applications that would most benefit from utilising this technology.

Vlad Galaboy, research director at Omdia’s Cloud and Data Center Research Practice, said: “The data centre industry is the backbone of the digital economy and has enabled significant efficiencies in how we conduct business, communicate with one another, and develop innovative technologies. From this perspective, the data centres are already a force for good which is making the world more sustainable. With emergence and proliferation of smart grid-ready UPS technology, data centres are enabling an even more sustainable world.”

The Omdia Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) Intelligence Service covers comprehensive insights and forecasts of the UPS hardware and services markets. Omdia’s UPS trackers continue to evolve and build on their existing, detailed database of the market. Using the reports, clients can master detailed data, trends, forecasts, and trusted insights.

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