Riello UPS General Manager Leo Craig explains how tapping into the potential of UPS battery storage is helping run a pioneering virtual power plant.

All of us involved with the data centre sector know only too well how demand for storage and processing capacity is likely to rocket in the coming years.

The ‘Internet of Things’ increasingly impacts every aspect of our day-to-day lives, with the number of interconnected devices continuing to explode at a rapid rate.

With severe pressures already placed on our creaking National Grid, we’ll need a radical shift in approach to electricity generation in order to keep up with these growing requirements.

Just continuously cranking up capacity isn’t a viable alternative, particularly when we consider how long it’s taken to get the Hinkley Point nuclear plant project off the ground.

How does demand side response work?

One method already in use is a demand-side response (DSR).

This is where grid users are encouraged to shift their energy consumption at peak times, reducing demand on the overall network.

DSR has huge potential in the data centre sector, even though take-up so far has been slow, with most operators perhaps understandably reluctant to compromise on their need to prioritise maximum uptime.

More and more uninterruptible power supplies nowadays can use lithium-ion (Li-Ion) rather than sealed lead-acid (SLA) batteries.

This means that UPSs now have the potential to generate and store electricity that can either be used instead of mains supply at peak times or the surplus sold back to the main network.

Even though we’ve only just scratched the surface of this technology, more than 4 gigawatts of electricity are already stored in UPS units across the UK.

That’s enough to power nearly 3 million typical homes.

Surveys consistently demonstrate that more mission-critical organisations, including data centres, are interested in participating in DSR and using their UPS not just as power protection but as an energy generator too.

But this is only the case if it doesn’t impact on their core business, a predictably cautious outlook from such a naturally risk-adverse industry.

It’s up to us who believe in the benefits of demand-side response, to use energy efficiency and sustainability to produce clean, green energy to do more to raise awareness of the potential and highlight any significant successes.

UPS battery storage for DSR in practice

KiWi Power is the UK’s leading DSR aggregator and has been a key player in the nation’s energy mix since 2009.

As a committed champion of the commercial opportunities offered by energy efficiency, it wanted to put its money where its mouth was when it came to powering its 40-strong office in London.

Teaming together our super-efficient Multi Sentry UPSs with Li-Ion batteries from manufacturer Yuasa, KiWi Power created its own ‘virtual power plant’, which would enable their facility to run on a mix of mains supply and electricity stored in the UPS batteries.

The pioneering project, backed by the government-backed Innovate UK and assisted by energy consultant Swanbarton, saw the software in our UPS programmed with three special commands:

  • ‘Discharge’ mode: where the office load is removed from the mains supply and supported by the battery
  • ‘Hold’ mode: where the office load is supplied from the mains with the battery remaining in a static state of charge
  • ‘Charge’ mode: where the office load is supplied from mains while the battery is recharged at a programmable rate

The most appropriate mode is automatically chosen by sophisticated grid management software that constantly monitors information such as the real-time status of the National Grid, battery autonomy, and load levels.

Appreciating that maintaining operational resilience is the number one priority, if there any issues at all with the mains supply, the system immediately defaults to standard UPS mode and protects the KiWi Power office’s critical load against any disruption.

Mircea Bucur, Product Manager for KiWi Power, has hailed the success of the project, saying: “As a business focused on evolving the energy landscape, we need to be leading the way when it comes to our own demand response mechanisms.

“Riello UPS, GS Yuasa and Swanbarton have enabled us to reap multiple benefits from battery storage technology and to set an example to other businesses.”

Read the full case study about how Riello UPS helped created a ‘virtual power plant’ with KiWi Power here

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