Power technology trends for 2019

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Power Control’s director, Rob Mather, explores some power technology trends for 2019, aimed at driving energy efficiency and improving resilience…

The need to balance resilience, efficiency and cost savings in mission critical sectors is driving some key technology trends around battery storage, UPS systems, and intelligent monitoring. Among these trends is an increasing interest in lithium-ion battery technology. According to market reports, the lithium-ion battery market is forecasted to grow from $36.20 billion in 2018 to $109.72 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 13.4%. (Source: Reports & Data, March 2019).

“This increasing demand for lithium-ion battery technology is being driven by the falling costs of the technology, but we are also seeing increasing interest in peak shaving activities,” says Power Control’s director, Rob Mather. “During peak hours, facilities can put a percentage of the load on to battery; UPS manufacturers are now facilitating this ability using a variety of methodologies. Using this technology, businesses can help reduce the pressure on the grid quite substantially, while saving on energy costs. In addition, they can also earn revenue through fast response schemes,” he continues.

Mather explains that, to participate in these types of demand-side response schemes, lithium-ion batteries are required for their cycling ability – VRLA batteries are not designed to withstand this type of demanding activity.

New battery technology

To address this increasing demand, Power Control has announced the release of a high performance, space saving, lithium-ion range of backup power solutions. Developed and engineered by one of its partners, leading UPS manufacturer CertaUPS, the company’s new lithium-ion range provides complete resilience for sensitive loads and includes hot swappable battery design, allowing for engineering work to be quickly undertaken without the need for shutdown. 

These compact systems offer three times the energy density and double the expected design life when compared with traditional VRLA batteries. Available in 1U, 1000VA and 2U 1000VA to 3000VA, the new systems are ideal for server racks where space is at a premium. 

“The most significant factor driving increased uptake of lithium-ion battery technology is the reduced footprint – you can reduce the space needed for battery storage by between 30% and 50% by switching to lithium-ion, freeing up significant floor space for core business operations,” Mather points out.

Although the initial purchase cost of lithium-ion systems remains higher than VRLA, Mather is keen to highlight the importance of considering the long term TCO: “Lithium-ion UPS solutions are lighter, smaller, offer longer life, improved power density and require significantly less maintenance,” he comments. “Furthermore, lithium-ion can operate at higher temperatures, so you can make significant savings on the cooling.”

There are also other advantages in terms of delivering resilience, according to Mather. He explains that the lithium-ion UPS solution comes with leading-edge operational features, including programmable outlets, which allocates less essential load to the critical load in an extended mains outage. 

Increasing resilience of UPS operations

There are other technology trends that are also helping to improve resilience for mission critical sites. The latest UPS monitoring software from Power Control – Oculeye – gives a global view of remote facilities from a single, secure platform, keeping mission critical sites one step ahead. 

The technology offers significant advantages in terms of optimising the performance and condition of critical UPS systems, through trend analysis. This ensures any issues can be quickly anticipated before they can become a problem.

“A site may be experiencing frequent spikes in power, at certain times throughout the day, and trend analysis – via our monthly report – will highlight this,” explains Mather. “It could indicate that there is a problem on site and it allows one of our engineers to investigate the potential cause. Without the monitoring software in place, potential issues may be missed.”

The system is also multi-vendor compatible, which is an important feature as there is often a variety of different manufacturers’ UPS systems across an estate. 

“All too often, there is no centralised method of monitoring these,” explains Mather. “The site can choose to have individual vendors carry out maintenance, if preferred, but our system allows the facility operator to retain complete control and have total visibility across all of their systems. It eliminates the need to have multiple, proprietary monitoring systems from each of the vendors.” 

He adds that with the move to hybrid IT architectures and increasing proliferation of ‘Edge’ facilities, there will be an increasing need to manage unmanned sites. This system gives the option to provide visibility of remote power assets and real-time tracking. 

There is also a great deal of interest in UPS monitoring at hospital sites, according to Mather. Power Control is working with a large number of Trusts, as hospitals increasingly outsource critical maintenance to more specialist providers. The monitoring technology allows the company’s engineers to quickly respond to any issues ensuring the continued reliability of the UPS systems serving theatres and other areas, where power continuity is critical for patient safety. 

The software also allows Power Control to conduct load analysis. By collecting data over a period of months, the company can advise customers on whether their UPS is over sized enabling potential cost savings to be achieved.

Increasing demand for modular UPS

Another emerging trend is the increased interest in modular UPS, according to Mather: “You can achieve greater efficiencies at lower loads, but you can also scale up as your requirements evolve. For example, a new data centre may want to scale up, as its demand increases, to avoid over-sizing the UPS, while more established facilities may also want to scale down as clients’ requirements reduce. This may coincide with clients upgrading their servers and ancillary equipment, therefore creating overall efficiencies in terms of their power demands. Ultimately, the ability to scale-up or down allows a facility to operate at peak efficiency,” Mather explains.

Recognising the importance of this market trend, Power Control has become the UK modular UPS partner for Legrand. With a company history dating back to 1865, Legrand has grown aggressively to become the multibillion-pound business that it is today. It is the largest global manufacturer of switches, sockets and cable management. Over the last decade Legrand has widened its product portfolio to include UPS, which has been in direct response to the need for more energy efficient technologies. 

Legrand is the fourth largest global UPS manufacturer and as its reputation in the backup power world gathers pace, it has chosen to align itself with some of the most renowned industry specialists. Its partnership with Power Control will enable it to offer more comprehensive, nationwide service support for all of its three phase UPS solutions. 

Based in central England with its own engineers positioned nationwide, Power Control will be providing additional technical support for Legrand. 

Commenting on the partnership, Legrand technical sales manager Jonathan Tookey says: “Power Control is an extremely influential market leader across the entire power protection spectrum. Their reputation for exceptional service and technical experience is the reason Legrand has chosen to partner with Power Control.

“Over the coming months both companies will be working together and sharing cross training opportunities to ensure that a fully cohesive service is delivered to our clients. Power Control’s engineering team will receive in-depth product training at our headquarters and will be supported directly from our manufacturing site. Legrand has ambitious growth plans for its UK UPS division and we are confident that our partnership with Power Control will help us achieve our goals.”

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