Efficient Power Protection Means Less Cost, Not Less Reliability

Pedro Robredo, Three-Phase UPS Product Line Manager, Eaton Corp.

With companies relying on IT more than ever, data center capacity requirements are steadily rising. Unfortunately, so are the costs associated with data center building and operations.

“Not surprisingly many data center managers today are trying to figure out how to design and plan for the future, especially with the huge capital outlays it takes to build a leading edge data center today,” said Gartner vice president, Dave Cappuccio.

But how to do this without compromising the ability to meet business standards? How can an IT manager practice restraint while maximizing effectiveness? There are answers in the form of virtual environments and highly-efficient systems.

Shrinking Data Centers
Ultimately, every business should examine its specific needs and constraints before deciding which space-saving strategies to employ. Broadly speaking, however, most organizations seeking to shrink the scale of their data centers will benefit from following these basic principles:

1. Make as much use of server and storage virtualization as possible, to fit more computing power and data into less space.

2. Look for additional ways to increase power and processing densities through the use of technologies such as blade servers, passive cooling and 400 V power.

3. Follow modular design principles when building or retrofitting a data center to avoid implementing more infrastructure than is likely to be needed over the near or medium term. Look in particular for uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), cooling and power distribution products that allow adding capacity incrementally as requirements grow.
Interestingly enough, UPSs can be downsized also, as new technology allows for more power within a smaller physical footprint.

More Efficient UPSs
As another part of reducing energy consumption and cooling costs, companies have been looking more closely at the energy efficiency of their UPSs. Legacy UPS, those five to 10 years old, could be squandering as much as 10 percent of incoming energy in the course of doing their jobs.

New UPSs maximize efficiency by operating in multiple modes, changing their operating characteristics to adapt to the electrical conditions of the moment. By engaging internal components only as necessary, these multi-mode UPSs can achieve exceptional efficiency, up to 99 percent across a very broad load range.

All the electronics in an organization, from desktop to data center, require continuous, clean power. Anything less puts the business at risk for data corruption, equipment damage and unplanned downtime. Replacing legacy machines with the latest energy-efficient technology is one way to reduce maintenance and energy costs and ensure power reliability to a greater degree.

For example, in a one megawatt data center, a 10-year-old UPS could be wasting 150 kilowatts (kW) or more of utility power and dissipating a lot of added heat. Replacing that vintage equipment with new, high-efficiency UPSs can free up about 120 kW of that power to support new IT equipment and reduce the burden on cooling systems. For example, replacing just one 550 kW UPS from a redundant UPS configuration with a higher-efficiency model could save more than $40,000 in power and cooling bills each year, while eliminating 190 tons of CO2 emissions and netting substantial utility company rebates.

Changing the Game in UPS Efficiency
Until recently, 96 or 97 percent energy efficiency was the upper limit in a double-conversion UPS. For every dollar spent on utility power, three to seven cents of it was used or dissipated as heat by the UPS. That does not sound like much, but it adds up. New energy-saving UPSs can deliver up to 99 percent efficiency, providing more usable power for every utility dollar. These UPSs achieve this high efficiency by intelligently adapting to the quality of the utility power and operating in energy-saving mode most of the time. In contrast, traditional double-conversion UPSs process utility power through an inverter and rectifier every millisecond of the day, converting it from AC to DC and back to AC again, dissipating heat and wasting power at every stage.

Until recently, there were significant trade-offs to increasing energy efficiency, harmful surges and slow reaction times. Now, a single, high-efficiency UPS can have it all, 99 percent efficiency and premium protection.

Figure 1. Representative Savings by Upgrading from Conventional to High-Efficiency, Multi-Mode UPS

Even slight gains in efficiency deliver significant potential savings in power and cooling. Figure 1 shows an example for a UPS supporting loads of various sizes. For a 250 kW load, a company can save about $4,000 per percentage point of efficiency gain, enough to pay for the UPS in three to five years. The reduced carbon footprint is equivalent to pulling 29 cars off the road.

Maximize Energy with Multi-Mode UPSs
Multi-mode UPSs combine the best of single- and double-conversion technologies to provide the benefits of each. Under normal conditions, the multi-mode UPS operates as a high-efficiency, energy-saving system, regulating voltage within safe tolerances and resolving common anomalies found in utility power (Figure 2). Whenever the UPS’s high-speed line detection circuitry senses a change in condition, the system automatically changes modes to intelligently achieve maximum effectiveness.

Figure 2. Internal Design of an Eaton Multi-Mode, High-Efficiency UPS

The new multi-mode technology provides exactly the level of power protection needed under the conditions of the moment. The unit does not operate in the low-efficiency/highest-protection mode unless necessary. With energy a significant component of IT operations, the efficiency gains of this strategy are substantial. Even a small data center can save tens of thousands of dollars a year in utility bills. Larger companies stand to save millions over time, without compromising performance or reliability.

Today’s IT and facility managers face a difficult bind: though computing needs are constantly escalating, so is the cost per square foot of a data center and the prices of critical supporting resources such as electricity and water. Utility costs now account for 20 to 30 percent of data center operating costs. According to IDC, for every dollar spent on new IT hardware, an additional 50 cents is spent on power and cooling, more than double the ratio of five years ago. The cost of electricity is already outpacing the cost of hardware. Consequently, more and more business are attempting to shrink the size of their data centers without shrinking their operating capacities.

The good news is that manufacturers have dramatically improved the efficiency of power protection systems, reducing the costs and environmental impact of powering the business. With today’s advances, IT managers can get more done in less space with smaller equipment and position their companies to meet IT goals with maximum cost-effectiveness.

For more information, please visit http://powerquality.eaton.com.

Leave a Reply