GE has added a flywheel energy storage option for some of its UPS products for critical facilities, a category that includes data centers.
Flywheels are an alternative to lead-acid batteries, the most common energy storage technology used by UPS systems today. Proponents of flywheels argue that they’re more environmentally friendly, require less maintenance and cooling than batteries do, and take up less space. Their drawbacks include much shorter ride-through times and the high amounts of energy needed to spin them.
Which option works best for a particular facility depends on many factors, including things like ride-through requirements, recharge time (it’s much shorter for flywheels), operating temperature, and power density, among others.
GE is introducing the new solutions in partnership with Calnetix Technologies subsidiary Vycon, a flywheel vendor that has had similar arrangements in the past with other major electrical infrastructure vendors, including Emerson Network Power and Schneider Electric, in the past. Neither of the two appears to be actively marketing the solutions.
Perhaps the most well-known vendor who is selling flywheel-based UPS systems for data centers is Austin-based Active Power. The company has recently agreed to be acquired by Piller, a subsidiary of the British engineering and industrial giant Langley Holdings, saying it has had difficulty raising capital to sustain operations.
One of Active Power’s most high-profile data center customer is Yahoo, which has deployed its flywheel-based UPS systems in its mega-scale data centers.