Posted on 5/6/2014 9:45 AM by Linda Morrow

For today’s data centers – especially colocation houses – space is at a premium. Every square foot of space must be able to pay for itself. So when it comes to allocating space for power protection equipment, creativity comes into play just as it does for the placement of servers, lighting, air handling, and other critical equipment.  

For large uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), space allocation can be daunting, especially in high-rise locations. However, one cannot compromise on power protection, as UPSs are a critical piece of the electrical infrastructure. Even a momentary glitch in power can cost an organization a million dollars per minute in downed transactions – not to mention the negative impact to customers. The question then becomes, how can one accommodate power protection equipment without wasting valuable space?

Folding Space

Advances in UPS technology have achieved smaller and faster components, sensors and smarter processors, but the size of the UPS batteries and support equipment has remained the same. There’s only so much you can do to compact the size of electrical equipment, not to mention bypass components, conduit, and cable runs. How can you reduce the equipment’s footprint?

You can start by redefining the space. Mission-critical data centers can require several UPSs and battery banks in order to protect connected loads for a period of time long enough to either ride out the power outage or to successfully transfer to the facility’s generator. Instead of lining up the UPSs side-by-side, a back-to-back modular layout can significantly reduce the amount of space required. This innovative layout can be achieved by using a bus backplane that eliminates conventional conduits and cable runs, reducing connections by 80%.

Scalability

It is essential for power protection capacity to increase as a data center grows. Today’s on-line, double-conversion UPSs are designed to scale up in order to meet the increased power load. However, additional UPS units and batteries take up more space. With a modular approach, scalability is achieved quickly due to the building block layout – essentially a plug-and-play approach. UPSs built in a single or multi-module configuration facilitate a flexible architecture. For example, if power needs increase, power modules can be added. If the power requirement decreases, then a module can be removed and used elsewhere as a single unit that can be paralleled for capacity or redundancy. This ability benefits organizations with changing power protection demands as it allows for the purchase of power protection equipment incrementally.

Efficiency

Floor space is not the only consideration when it comes to power protection equipment. Reducing operating and cooling costs has become a primary objective of facility managers and building owners alike. There are a few UPSs on the market today that can achieve as much as 97% efficiency through innovative design and the use of advanced semiconductor power devices also known as Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs).

The use of Carrier Stored Trench-Gate Bipolar Transistors – the fifth generation of IGBTs – achieves higher speeds in switching and achieves lower switching losses among other features. IGBT devices have become the preferred power device for UPS systems, but it is how the IGBT is controlled that is the key to achieving optimum UPS performance.

True on-line, double-conversion UPS systems have become the preferred topology for mission-critical applications because they offer lower risk of electrical load loss.

Return on Investment

When it comes to power protection, it’s important to know that not all UPSs are created equal. Look for UPSs that will give you high levels of reliability and efficiency. This will reduce cost of ownership and improve power usage effectiveness. Scalability and modularity go a step further in increasing return on investment as well as achieving flexibility that hasn’t been readily available in large UPS installations until now.

Thinking Outside and Inside of the Box

Our insatiable appetite for electricity continues to increase and as technology advances, our demand for 24/7 power grows exponentially. The advances in the smart grid have made great strides, but the U.S. electrical grid is still very vulnerable to outages. Smarter power protection that is scalable, flexible, efficient, and more configurable is a welcomed trend for today’s building and facility managers.

By Linda Morrow, marketing communications at Mitsubishi Electric Power Products.