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Data centres are beginning to support the electric grid and help boost global renewable energy

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Tue 8 Feb 2022

Data Centers can support the electric grid in a boost to global renewable energy and sustainability initiatives, according to Omdia.

A new survey by research group Omdia has shown that data center operators will deploy uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) to interact with the electric grid and support important energy-management initiatives within the next four years.

Renewable energy is becoming the new normal in the data center industry. And the integration of variable renewable energy resources into a more dynamic electric grid comes with new challenges and technical requirements. Omdia says data centers are uniquely positioned to increase electric grid reliability by allowing access to a part of their backup power systems. It says data center UPS has evolved to attain high efficiency, smaller footprints, improved battery energy storage systems (ESS), and monitoring systems.

"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", says Moises Levy, PhD, principal analyst and lead of Omdia's data center power, cooling and sustainability research practice. Manufacturers like Eaton, Schneider Electric, and Vertiv are already offering UPS with these capabilities."

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

Nearly 380 respondents say the top driver for adopting smart grid ready UPS contributes to sustainability initiatives. This was followed by technology innovation pioneering, reputation and competitive advantage. Critically, most respondents say they are confident that using smart grid ready UPS will not put their mission-critical workloads at risk.

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

Around 80% of respondents estimated that 10-50% of the capacity of batteries in the data center today is excess and can be potentially used to support the electric grid. Omdia believes this would be a significant enabler to integrating variable renewable energy sources into the electric grid. Most respondents indicated that solar and wind were the two microgrid applications that would most benefit from utilising this technology.

"The data center 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," says Omdia research director, Cloud and Data Center Research Practice, Vlad Galabov.

"From this perspective, the data centers are already a force for good which is making the world more sustainable. With the emergence and proliferation of smart grid, ready UPS technology data centers enable an even more sustainable world."

 

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