Assets you can count on: unlocking hidden value in UPS

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    A new partnership will enable mission critical sites to monetise their power assets. A growing number of mission critical sites are now approaching their UPS providers to develop solutions to facilitate demand-side response. Louise Frampton reports

    Providers of critical infrastructure are now paving the way for mission critical facilities to enter the market for demand-side response, enabling them to capitalise on their backup power assets. Vertiv is the latest to set its sights on the DSR arena, by entering a partnership with energy software specialist Upside Energy. 

    By using Upside Energy’s cloud-based Flexibility Platform, Vertiv will enable customers, with uninterruptible power supplies to provide unused energy to the UK electricity grid. By extending battery storage beyond its typical use, UPS owners will be able to generate value and make savings on their energy bill.

    Vertiv provides physical infrastructure and monitoring for data centres, as well as a range of services for data centres, which are primarily designed to ensure availability and optimisation of energy consumption. However, it has found there is increasing interest in the potential for demand-side response.

    Emiliano Cevenini, vice-president of commercial and industrial vertical markets for Vertiv in Europe, Middle East and Africa

    Emiliano Cevenini, vice-president of commercial and industrial vertical markets for Vertiv in Europe, Middle East and Africa, comments: “We are always looking for new ways of offering services for customers. After meeting with Upside, it was apparent that they could offer a way to use assets more effectively – these are sitting idle for the majority of the time, waiting for an event to happen. These assets can be used as flexible devices. This is particularly straightforward for end users with UPS, which already feature battery storage.” 

    Businesses usually invest in UPS solutions as emergency backup for critical systems, but this new distributed energy model makes UPS more attractive for potential customers as these systems can now be used also to generate value. Upside Energy’s cloud-based platform has the capability to provide demand response and orchestrate more than 100,000 devices or systems running in parallel in real-time. 

    The platform software will continuously and remotely monitor the UPS of Vertiv’s UK customers who opt in, using battery storage to provide flexibility to the grid, while the UPS primary function as emergency backup power remains unaltered. In turn, the UK electricity grid can run more efficiently, particularly at peak times when it is short of capacity.

    With energy consumption by data centres set to increase significantly during the next 10 years, the partnership with Upside Energy will give Vertiv customers the opportunity to play an important role in preserving the energy availability and resilience of the grid. 

    Analysis by National Grid shows that 600 tonnes of CO2e can be eliminated for every MW of demand-side capacity made available. By 2025, Upside Energy aims to have 515MW of capacity under management in the UK – which would enable the company to eliminate 309,000 tonnes of CO2e per annum.

    Devrim Celal, Upside Energy CEO

    Upside Energy CEO Devrim Celal comments: “The Upside Energy technology connects assets via a highly scalable, extremely fast control platform, using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. We optimise the capacity of these assets and offer them to energy markets. This may be across the national grid, hotel power markets, or, increasingly, DNOs. The aim is to deliver additional value to Vertiv customers using assets that they already own, without jeopardising their critical mission, while simultaneously giving facilities intelligence about the assets that they own. 

    “We estimate that there are around 500,000 UPS already in the UK, holding several gigawatts of energy. The cloud platform allows us to release that energy and make value out of it.

    “Various options are available to monetise the assets, including revenue sharing, but what makes this relationship different to the typical set-up with an aggregator is that it is based on services. For the data centre sector, services that ensure business continuity are the number one priority,” adds Cevenini.

    He points out that the constant monitoring and management provided by Virtual Energy Store, powered by Upside Energy, enables customers to track how their batteries are being used and whether they are functioning properly. The monitoring capability also minimises the risk that the batteries might get depleted while sitting idle and waiting to be called upon in a potential emergency.

    Cevenini adds that the data centre industry has in the past been quite a conservative sector, but this is now changing and there is increasing interest in DSR. “We are being proactively approached by data centre clients to develop this solution as part of our offering and enable them to participate in DSR markets. It is not a case of educating our customers to get on board with DSR; we have been educated by our customers. Now we are ready to educate the rest,” he says. 

    Cevenini believes there is a need for further education around DSR to encourage increased adoption – overcoming initial concerns over ‘loss of control’ or ‘adding risk’ will need to be addressed. 

    “We have experience of managing this initial reticence – 20 years ago we faced challenges in persuading people to allow the connection of UPS for the purpose of monitoring and remote diagnosis. Nobody wanted to have an external connection that would allow a third-party to access to their most mission critical device. This is now past history,” he says. 

    “Customers are becoming more educated on how to protect against outside threats, but they also welcome the fact that a manufacturer of a device can keep an eye on the asset 24/7, 365 days per year and proactively tackle any problems even before the customer realises there is an issue. 

    “We can connect to the external system for DSR, but the decision as to whether the DSR function can be fulfilled lies within our device. If our device decides that there is an anomaly in the power supply, it will not fulfil any external command.”

    Celal says that one of the barriers to adoption has been a lack of operational and rewards information, but those who do come on board often find they want to do more. “If you speak to organisations that participate in DSR, around half will tell you that they have further capacity. As they become familiar with DSR, they almost always want to do more with the assets they have. In the data centre world, the picture is going to be similar,” he says.

    “We are now developing case studies for them to look at, so they feel comfortable, but we can also provide real-time information on what is happening with their assets, with absolute control over when and how these assets can be used. They have the ability to withdraw the assets from service if their situation changes. In addition, we ensure the UPS battery is never below 80% charge. Once a DSR event is over, the site will have 80% of the original charge in the battery if they need it for a critical event.” 

    Celal adds that combining value from a variety of assets will deliver the maximum value – including diesel or gas back-up systems, or thermal inertia on their cooling. 

    “It is a win-win scenario,” he says. “If you are focusing on static frequency response you are looking at around £100,000-plus (gross) for a 10MW data centre. Last year, there were just 12 static frequency events, each lasting around 30 minutes. This is within a typical testing cycle and need not add any stress. Some data centres are already avoiding Triad charges – this would add another £450,000 for a 10MW data centre. Dynamic frequency response may also be an option, which would allow them to extract more value.” 

    The partnership is already working with a major telco infrastructure provider; the client’s UPSs have now been enabled and back-up generation will further add to the company’s value streams, after the necessary modifications are carried out. This is expected to deliver 2-3MW of DSR to National Grid. There will also be some Triad activity over the winter period, and the partnership is working with the electricity supplier to start using capacity for power market arbitrage.

     

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