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Adoption of smart grid-ready UPS tech by datacentres tipped for take-off in next four years

IT market watcher Omdia claims the next four years could see a sizeable shift in how datacentres interact with the electricity grid as the use of smart grid-enabled UPS tech becomes more widespread

The deployment of smart grid-ready uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) is set to become more commonplace in datacentres over the next four years, paving the way for operators to cultivate their demand-side response energy management strategies.

That’s according to IT market watcher Omdia, which claims the prevalence of UPS units that are capability of interacting with the electricity grid will come into widespread use within the next four years.

“Datacentres are in a unique position to increase the reliability of the electric grid by allowing access to a part of their backup power systems,” the analyst house said, in a statement.

“Datacentre UPSs have evolved to attain high efficiency, smaller footprints, improved battery energy storage systems [ESS], and monitoring systems.

“Smart grid-ready UPSs incorporate technologies that enable the equipment to sense and interact with the electric grid, helping datacentres to become smarter about the amount and timing of energy consumption, contributing to the pursuit of a more sustainable datacentre,” the statement added.

Moises Levy, principal analyst and lead of Omdia’s datacentre power, cooling and sustainability research practice, said that several of the datacentre sectors’s biggest UPS manufacturers are already bringing to market products with smart-grid interactivity, which is another reason why adoption and deployment of the technology is poised to increase.   

This, coupled with how readily the datacentre operators are moving to embrace sustainability and ramp up their use of renewables, means there are plenty of benefits for datacentre operators and those tasked with managing electricity grid supplies, Levy continued. 

“The integration of renewable energy into the smart electric grid can benefit from smart grid ready UPS, to smooth out the unpredictability of renewable resources, balancing energy supply and demand, and to reduce or defer electric grid infrastructure investment,” said Levy.  

To get a gauge on how much appetite there is within the datacentre and utilities market to adopt and embrace the use of smart-grid UPS technologies, Omdia polled 380 operators and utility providers, as well as datacentre-focused engineering, architecture, and consulting firms, from across North America, the Nordics, the UK and Ireland, France, Germany and Australia.  

The poll revealed that delivering on sustainability initiatives was the main reason why the respondents would be interested in adopting smart grid-ready UPS kit. The survey participants also said they would deploy the technology to appear to be on the front-foot of innovation, for reputational reasons and if doing so would confer on them a competitive advantage.

When asked the user groups that stood to benefit most from the use of smart grid-ready UPS technologies, the respondents pointed to the cloud service provider community because of their propensity for running hyperscale server farm facilities.

“From a regional perspective, the Nordics, and UK and Ireland are the two regions leading the number of UPS with capabilities to interact with the grid being deployed,” the survey results stated.

Omdia’s findings come at a time when datacentre operators are coming under increased pressure to become more transparent over their energy and water usage habits, while also being pushed to take tangible and measurable steps to curb their carbon emissions and use more renewable power.

Part of this work has seen operators in some of Europe’s biggest datacentre hubs urged to do more to reduce the impact their activities are having on the national electricity grid out of concerns that the boom in server farm builds in these regions could lead to power supply shortages in due course.

For this reason, initiatives that allow datacentres to reduce their reliance on the grid during peak periods of energy usage, or allow them to feed power generated on-site back into the grid, are receiving growing amounts of interest.

“The datacentre industry is the backbone of the digital economy and has enabled significant efficiencies in how we conduct business, communicate with one another, and develop innovative technologies,” said Vlad Galabov, research director at Omdia’s cloud and datacentre research practice.

“From this perspective the datacentres are already a force for good which is making the world more sustainable. With emergence and proliferation of smart grid-ready UPS technology, datacentres are enabling an even more sustainable world.”

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