The momentum behind cleaning up energy that powers data centers and shrinking battery costs have created an opportunity for a new type of data center technology: smart grid-ready UPS.
The idea is to use energy data centers already store for backup to balance the utility grids, where intermittent renewable energy sources increase load volatility. There is still a long way to go before most electrical grids are made “smart” enough for the idea work, but a convergence of factors has made this an opportune moment for it to move forward, according to the market research firm Omdia.
Electric grids today have “limited ability to store energy, so electricity must constantly be generated to satisfy demand,” Moises Levy, principal analyst with Omdia’s Cloud and Data Center Research Practice, said. “Smart grid is the capability to allow for bidirectional interactive sensing and communication between the utility and the users. This represents a significant opportunity for distributed energy resources to contribute with the electric grid, including UPS and energy storage systems.”
The biggest source of friction in adoption of smart grid-ready data center UPS has been battery technology. The batteries must be reliable, cost-effective, easy to deploy, and environmentally friendly, Levy said. But innovation over the recent years by the electric vehicle industry has driven battery costs down, putting grid-interactive onsite energy storage within data center operators’ reach.
Another major source of friction is immaturity of the world’s energy markets with respect to smart grids and renewables. New regulations and new market mechanisms must be implemented to allow for greater access to renewable energy and participation in demand response by data centers connected to the grids.
The grids themselves must be upgraded with sensors, data analytics capabilities, and new controls to enable a more fine-grained and dynamic approach to load management.
The wave of government and corporate enthusiasm about sustainability that’s currently rising may drive a larger appetite than before for making the necessary changes.