Experts feel that data centres will be able to support electric grids to help bolster ESG propositions without taking on increased risk.

electric grid data centres

The conclusions have been made following a survey conducted by Omdia research group, that shows that within the next four years data centre operators will deploy uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) which are able to interact with the electric grid and support essential energy-management initiatives.

The use of renewable energy is growing on all fronts and is becoming the new normal in the data centre industry, however the integration of variable renewable energy resources into a more dynamic electric grid comes with new challenges and technical requirements.

Data centres are in a unique position to increase the reliability of the electric grid by allowing access to a part of their backup power systems. Data centre 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 infrastructures to become smarter about the amount and timing of energy consumption, contributing to the pursuit of a more sustainable data centre while optimising risk management.

Moises Levy, PhD, Principal Analyst and lead of Omdia’s data centre power, cooling and sustainability research practice, said:

“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.

Manufacturers like Eaton, Schneider Electric, and Vertiv are already offering UPSs with these capabilities,” Levy added.

To capture all viewpoints of this critical subject, Omdia surveyed a combination of data centre operators, engineering, architecture and consulting firms, as well as, utility companies, across North America, the Nordics, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Australia.

The nearly 380 respondents indicated that the top driver for adopting smart grid ready UPS is contributing to sustainability initiatives. This was followed by technology innovation pioneer, and reputation and competitive advantage. Importantly, most respondents indicate that using smart grid ready UPS will not put their mission critical workloads at risk.

Cloud service providers were pointed out as the vertical that is most likely to benefit from smart grid ready UPS by nearly half of the survey respondents. However, enterprises from all vertical industries are a part of the conversation as long as they operate a data centre.

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.

About 80% of respondents estimated that 10-50% of the capacity of batteries in the data centre today is excess and can be potentially used to support the electric grid. This would be a significant enabler to the integration of variable renewable energy sources into the electric grid. Most respondents indicated that solar and wind were the two micro-grid applications which would most benefit from utilising this technology.

Vlad Galabov, Research Director at Omdia’s Cloud and Data Center Research Practice, said:

“The data centre 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.

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