In the UK, more than 60% of our power comes from burning fossil fuels. Therefore, anything that uses power has an environmental impact. UPS require power to run and air conditioning to cool batteries. There are also environmental implications when it comes to the delivery of new equipment, its ongoing maintenance and the disposal of used equipment containing VRLA (lead acid) batteries which current legislation classes as ‘special waste’.
Most companies have environmental policies. However, the majority still reward staff for buying the ‘cheapest’ option rather than incentivising staff to reduce environmental impact. Understandably, executives at board level are driven to improve profit margins and they have responsibility to their shareholders to grow revenues, but at what cost to our environment? Surely, they also have a responsibility to reduce carbon footprints to protect the world we all, including shareholders, live in.
The latest research paints a bleak picture of our future, if immediate action to reduce carbon footprints is not taken. For example: In October last year, the UN issued a landmark report which stated Greenhouse gas emissions must be cut almost in half by 2030 to avert global environmental catastrophe, including the total loss of every coral reef, the disappearance of Arctic ice and the destruction of island communities. Scientists stated that we need keep temperature increases below 1.5C to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Unless we see a significant move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and introduce new technology to reverse global warming by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, scientists believe this figure will be exceeded within around 20 years.
So, what can we do?
Select the Most Efficient UPS
Selecting the most efficient UPS is essential to minimise its carbon footprint. If we consider a 100kW UPS operating 24 hours per day/365 days per year, every 1% of efficiency loss wastes 1kW every hour. At only 10p/kW hour this equates to £8,760 over a ten-year period and does not include the energy wasted by additional air conditioning.
Beware, operational efficiencies are often stated by manufacturers as being ‘greater than 99%’. However, this usually relates to offline operation or ‘ecomode’. Datacentres don’t use this mode as it means they would be operating on raw mains and only transferring (with a short break in power) to full UPS operation when there is a problem. True online efficiency is the important percentage to compare UPS solutions as this indicates the real UPS operating efficiency.
Choose a Scalable, Flexible UPS
A UPS needs to operate at the optimum point on its efficiency curve. Systems which are too small will be overloaded, compromising availability while those that are too large, waste energy are costly to run and to maintain. Scalability and flexibility are therefore essential considerations to ensure the continual ‘right sizing’ of the UPS.
Today’s 4th Generation modular UPS technology has a flat efficiency curve for loads above 15%. This is why CENTIEL’s CumulusPower UPS offers >97% efficiency even at low loads and combines the benefits of increased flexibility, scalability and lowest running costs.
Cheap UPS are inevitably built with cheap components which require more maintenance and repair, all adding to the system’s total cost of ownership (TCO) and carbon footprint. A top-quality UPS such as CENTIEL’s CumulusPower, using Li-ion batteries will need one change of the capacitors in 15 years with no battery changes. An inferior solution will need three capacitor changes plus three VLRA battery changes in the same period. Consider the environmental impact of selecting a UPS which reduces the need for maintenance and replacement parts.
Naturally, increased efficiency and lower total cost of ownership for UPS are closely linked with the most environmentally friendly systems enjoying ongoing operating cost savings. However, given a choice, decision makers still purchase the lowest cost system thinking they are “saving money” for their company despite the company’s environmental and sustainability policies. While this behavior is understandable, it needs to change, and employees need to be incentivized to make the right environmental choices before it is too late.
Move to Li-ion
Most UPS systems can operate in an ambient temperature of around 40°C without de-rating, however, VLRA (lead-acid) batteries used to support the UPS start to degrade at above 20°C. VRLA batteries need to be cooled by continual air conditioning and its associated environmental cost.
An alternative is Li-ion battery technology. Li-ion has a higher initial purchase price but can safely operate at higher ambient temperatures so the need for air-conditioning is significantly reduced. In Northern European locations this means cooling could be provided by the natural air temperature, if cooling is needed at all. This would result in significant savings on both datacentre running costs and reduced carbon footprints.
Li-ion batteries also have a much longer useful working life. Five-year design life VRLA batteries are normally replaced every four years. With Li-ion this is every 15 years.
For further information visit www.centiel.co.uk
The lifetime of a typical UPS lifetime is usually around ten years. This is because manufacturers are obliged to supply replacement parts for up to ten years after cessation of manufacture.
Therefore, the purchasing of equipment five years before this end date may extend the product’s apparent life to 14 years – after which, capacitors and/or batteries usually require replacing for a second or third time thereby making further investment in aging technology prohibitive.
Surprisingly, replacement batteries can cost 30 to 40% of a brand-new UPS system. The standard five or ten-year design life VRLA type battery will generally require replacing at four or eight years
Replacing individual faulty battery blocks in strings is not recommended due to the different impedances between old and new and equalisation becomes a problem. Rapid chemical build-up within the new blocks will seriously affect their performance and within weeks they can become significantly ‘aged’; best practice is to replace all batteries at the same time.
Replacement of capacitors, AC and DC, is also a costly exercise and although prices vary depending on the UPS system, can amount to around 5-10% of the cost of a new UPS. Recommended replacement times vary between manufacturer with some advocating changing both at five years. Confirm this with your UPS supplier!
For the reasons above, if your UPS is approaching a point where both batteries and capacitors need replacing, it is worth considering the potential commercial advantages of replacement versus repair.
A new system will have a 2-year warranty, advances in technology mean it will be more efficient, making significant savings on running costs on both electricity and reduced cooling requirements.
Over time, your load profile will undoubtedly have changed so it is worth investigating Modular UPS systems which can be right-sized more easily to your actual load: why pay for a large UPS when you don’t need it!? The Modular option can therefore reduce CAPEX as well as OPEX. In addition, the latest generation of Modular systems offer the highest availability and continuity of critical power delivery. For example: CENTIEL’s fourth generation modular UPS CumulusPower has 99.9999999% availability.
In some situations, a brand-new system could offer a far better technical solution at a similar cost to replacement parts. For a mid-range UPS system, say 60 to 200KVA, the remedial battery works may cost around £5-15K plus the cost of the capacitors. Suddenly, the cost of a similar sized replacement becomes attractive. Plus, a new UPS will come with that warranty and lower running costs.
However, often in business, OPEX and CAPEX lie in different cost centres. It might be easier to push through a purchase order for replacement batteries than invest in a new UPS which would offer long-term savings on running costs and provide higher availability. Here a total cost of ownership (TCO) calculation is helpful to assess the savings over the long term following a capital investment.
For example, a legacy 200kVA standalone UPS only using 100kVA of power could be replaced with a 200-kVA frame with two x 50KVA Modules. This right-sizing using UPS modules reduces CAPEX and lowers ongoing maintenance costs too.
In a recent TCO calculation: the energy saved by replacing an oversized, inefficient, UPS paid for a new Modular system within three years! The calculated savings over ten years made the decision a ‘no-brainer’.
Advances in UPS technology can also reduce the cost of future replacement parts. Legacy UPS systems have capacitors soldered on to printed circuit board, where in contrast, the latest modular UPSs facilitate simple swapping capability via components mounted on screw in sub-assemblies. CENTIEL has designed CumulusPower so the DC capacitors only require replacement every ten years and AC capacitors every five-six years so can be changed separately to save costs.
When considering this repair/replacement conundrum, consider also how your business may change in the future. Will it grow? Will it always run at its current capacity? A new, truly modular configuration offers “pay as you grow” flexibility. Right-sizing the system initially, minimises CAPEX, while providing the capability to upgrade your system’s capacity with additional Modules.
For further information visit www.centiel.co.uk
Over the years, developments in UPS technology have focused heavily on improving efficiency, reliability and availability. Increases in operating efficiencies, while in on-line double-conversion mode, has primarily been achieved by the introduction of transformerless technology in the 1990s.
This removal of the bulky transformer, with the associated significant reductions in size, footprint and weight led to the innovation of the Modular concept. This in-turn reduced the important Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) figure thereby significantly increasing availability. Development in UPS design now realises efficiency figures of 97+%, and the evolution of several generations of Modular UPS systems has increased availability from 99.9995 (six 9’s) to 99.9999999% (nine 9’S). Downtime has been reduced from seconds to milliseconds. Of course, a UPS system doesn’t just comprise of the UPS units themselves but also includes the vital dc source needed to convert and provide outpower power in the event of a mains supply failure.
This dc source has predominantly remained the battery: a simple chemical device used to store energy until it is required. For the UPS world, the traditional ‘go to’ battery has been the Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) block. For many good reasons VRLA has been around for a long time. The technology is old but proven, robust, price competitive, the batteries are recyclable and as a result, have been the back-up of choice for the vast majority of UPS systems. (Note that batteries for UPS systems have been specifically designed for the unique characteristics of the application and therefore the correct battery type must always be used.)
Like any industry there are always improvements in technology and a change in battery type is coming. In the not-so-distant-future UPS systems will be supported by Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery (LIB) technology.
Li-ion batteries had their origins in the early 70s, but the commercial success was really driven by Sony with their handheld video camera of the early nineties. Continued growth and development has been driven by laptops, then mobile phones because we all want our electronics to be smaller, cheaper, more powerful and operate for longer periods.
While critical IT power protection solutions and handheld electronics both share the common goals of demanding more power, occupying less space, longer run times and a justifiable price point, the batteries supporting consumer electronics are not the same as those for data centres.
Interestingly, the adoption of Li-ion within UPS systems so far, has been greater in developing countries in Africa and also the Middle East where the main power grid is less reliable than in the UK and frequent power problems are more commonplace. In these instances, the UPS and battery systems are required to be cycled several times per day! This greater adoption is primarily due to the higher cycling life of Li-ion: typically, 2,500 power-up and down cycles compared with around 300 for VRLA technology.
In the UK and Europe different drivers including the continued rising cost of real-estate will influence the adoption of Li-ion technology far more. This is because the main disadvantages of VRLA batteries are their size and weight. Above ground-floor installation can require structural strengthening of the building simply to house the required batteries. Logistically, moving many tonnes of equipment in and out of an upstairs comms room when batteries need replacing can also present challenges.
In terms of physical footprint there is a significant difference in the two technologies: Li-ion occupies <50% of the size and <25% of the weight of VRLA batteries. Although they are currently a more expensive purchase option, Li-ion’s price is falling rapidly (approximately 80% since 2010) and as a result, cost models and ROI are starting to look increasingly favourable. If you consider the value of comms room space, Li-ion is now starting to be viable for data-centres looking to increase their power density within the same foot print. In-fact we know a small number of European facilities now incorporating small Li-ion systems in their UPS including one house-hold branded search engine.
A further advantage of Li-ion is that it can work at a higher temperature, therefore requiring less-expensive cooling and reducing the amount of overall energy consumed in the comms room. By contrast: an industry standard estimate is that for every 10 degrees above 200C the operating life of a VRLA battery is halved.
As well as being much lighter and being able to work at a higher temperature, Li-ion has a significantly longer design life (around 15-17 years) compared with VRLA which normally needs replacing every 7-8 years for a 10-year design life battery. This level of maintenance can cause issues in-itself.
Depending on what you read, there are numerous of sources of data that suggest a sizable proportion of problems are caused by battery systems. Of course, things are always improving, and some battery monitoring systems also equalise the charge over battery systems, resulting in extended life.
However, when you evaluate total cost of ownership Li-ion is indeed becoming a more attractive solution.
However, are Li-ion batteries ready for primetime and powering the majority of critical facilities?
Not all lithium ion batteries are the same, like the VRLA battery the correct type of block must be chosen to suit the specific application. Common variants of Li-ion are Cobalt, Manganese, Phosphate, Aluminum and Titanite. These all display different levels of characteristics and performance: recharge time, power density and the capability to operate at higher temperatures. Depending on the choice of material for a Lithium-Ion battery, its voltage, energy density, working life time and safety can vary dramatically.
The Lithium-Cobalt oxide (LCO) offers a higher energy density but presents safety risks, especially when damaged. This chemical composition is widely used in consumer electronics. The lithium iron phosphate (LFP), the lithium manganese oxide (LMO) and the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) batteries offer a lower energy density but are inherently safer. In UPS applications, the most commonly used are the Llithium manganese oxide (LMO) and the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC), which offer the best compromise between performance and safety levels currently available on the Li-ion market.
In the past, you may have read some troubling stories in the press, predominantly about consumer electronic devices. Perhaps you remember the Samsung Note 7s catching fire and being banned from being taken on aircraft! The amount of energy density stored in these devices batteries do present specific problems. Although the incident rate is low compared to the huge quantity of devices in the field it is still an area that needs addressing.
However, high end applications like UPS system don’t quite present the same challenges. Li-ion batteries for UPS systems offer safer chemistries, bigger operating parameters, more robust materials and less stressed user environments. Li-ion manufactures use x-rays as part of quality control and there are safety fuses overcharge protection built in. Chemistry and cell science has improved but also so has the electronic management systems which monitor the battery system, obtaining details of each individual cell such as voltage, current, temperature and alarms, and control the charging regime appropriately.
Because nobody likes being a guinea pig and, by its very nature, the critical power protection industry tends to be particularly risk averse, the first moves to Li-ion batteries in the UPS industry will be by innovators. How soon they will be adopted by the mainstream will likely depend on the experience of these first installations.
We believe that over time, there will be a move towards Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries as cost reductions, driven by developments in the automotive industry, flow through to the standby power sectors. Incorporating Li-ion batteries will inevitably reduce the size and weight of UPS systems and the longer useful working life of Li-ion will mean fewer costly replacements. All of which will benefit customers with reductions in both CAPEX and OPEX and make Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries a winning solution for UPS applications requiring compact, innovative protection. The UPS systems of the future will need to be designed with Li-ion in mind.
In our ever-evolving world, future-proofing systems is one of the greatest challenges faced by system designers. The good news is that CENTIEL’s technology is already Li-ion Ready, so existing lead acid battery installations will have the option to upgrade to Li-ion in the future without needing to replace the UPS.
At CENTIEL UK Ltd our goal is clear: to achieve the ultimate availability of power for our client base. Our leading-edge technology, backed-up with our comprehensive maintenance contracts carried out by our experienced and fully trained engineering teams will ensure our clients’ power has the very best protection at all times – whatever the future holds.
Originally featured in Mission Critical Power Magazine June 2018
Global power generation is, according to many experts, at the beginning of a changing trend. The demand for energy is growing while at the same time providers are under pressure to provide it cleaner and more efficiently. A diverse range of hybrid utilities and distributed energy resources (DERs) now form part of the mix in supplying energy to many countries around the world, with end users demanding reliable power 24/7 as a basic requirement.
Data centres, government services, finance & banking, health services, airport & transport industries, military & security services, telecoms and many other services that are intrinsic to modern day life, require power 24/7, and most if not all, resort to having a standby genset system just in case the power fails.
Keeping these standby systems operative requires a serious commitment to maintenance so that when they are required to perform, they can do their duty without fail. The last thing any of these industries need is a ‘fail to start’ on the standby generator.
So how do companies provide effective maintenance of these systems to ensure they operate both efficiently and reliably, whenever needed?
SCHURTER presents the new waterproof IEC connector consisting of the appliance inlet type 4761 and the rewireable cord connector type 4762. With its high protection class IP67 or IP69K connected or unconnected with cover, this appliance coupler is perfect for supplying power to appliances used in harsh environments such as industrial, marine, laboratories or any type of outdoor appliances.