For a Greener Data Center, Boost UPS Energy Efficiency

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Data center, UPS systemThe concept of “green” data centers is garnering much attention these days. Yet there has been limited discussion about the role of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems in making data centers more environmentally friendly. As data center loads increase, so do the power losses of double-conversion UPS systems—and those losses are extremely costly. But UPS systems with very high efficiency ratings can boost a facility’s overall energy efficiency dramatically, reducing power losses and their associated costs and carbon emissions. With the proliferation of business-critical data centers certain to continue into the future, integrating high-efficiency UPS systems is essential.

Typical data centers contain more than 100 racks and consume megawatts of power. According to the U.S. EPA’s Report to Congress, data centers and servers accounted for 1.5% of total U.S. electric power consumption and 0.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. While the economy held 2011 growth of U.S. data center power consumption to 2%, lower than projected, the EPA expects numbers to more than double by 2020. GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher recently discussed that in the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest region, data centers may consume 10% of the region’s power by 2030.
As industries such as healthcare, financial services, and communications deploy more data centers, the environment will pay an even steeper price. Worldwide in 2011, data centers consumed 31 GW of power, according to DatacenterDynamics, which projects 19% consumption growth in 2012 and estimates the average power per rack at 4.0 kW. A recent Gartner report revealed that the annual cost to power an 8,000-square-foot data center can hit $1.6 million—this cost rises 10% yearly.

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Such statistics all support the need for solutions to improve energy efficiency, which extends to UPS systems. Uninterruptible power supplies are essential to ensure power reliability for data centers, but they can also contribute to energy efficiency within a data center. High-efficiency UPS systems, which operate offline, are upwards of 99% efficient, as opposed to typical, traditional double conversion UPS systems, which are around 92% efficient and run constantly.

Some UPS systems can also eliminate the need for chilled water storage, and thus yield even greater energy savings. Medium-voltage UPS systems can provide whole-facility protection, including protection for the chillers that are critical to keep servers from overheating. With conventional low-voltage UPS systems, which max out at about 1.5 MW, chilled water storage systems are required as back-up protection for servers in case a power outage causes chillers stop operating.

High-efficiency, whole-facility UPS solutions can play a role in improving energy efficiency at data centers, reducing operating costs through lower energy use and reducing any associated greenhouse gas emissions. What solutions and strategies do you think are critical for helping data centers increase energy efficiency? Please use the comment form to share your thoughts.

Troy Miller

About Troy Miller

Troy Miller is a Business Development and Marketing Manager in the Power Quality Products Division at S&C Electric Company. He has over 21 years of experience in the Power Engineering industry. Miller has a vast history in the application and implementation of all aspects of power electronics and power quality. Miller is a speaker at industry events for new product introductions and economic benefit analysis. He is currently responsible for Power Quality activities for S&C. These include Energy Storage, VAR compensation and Uninterruptible Power Systems. Miller holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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One Response to For a Greener Data Center, Boost UPS Energy Efficiency

  1. Rick Vanover September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Great post! Blogging my thoughts on the topic now as well!

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