Report: Data centers can support the smart grid

Feb. 7, 2022
A new survey by Omdia suggests that data centers can support the electric grid to boost global renewable energy and sustainability initiatives.

A new survey by research firm Omdia shows that within the next four years data center operators will deploy uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) which are able to interact with the electric grid and support essential energy-management initiatives.

As noted by the analyst, "smart grid ready UPSs incorporate technologies that enable the equipment to sense and interact with the electric grid, helping data centers to become smarter about the amount and timing of energy consumption, contributing to the pursuit of a more sustainable data center."

An Omdia statement further observes:

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

Data centers 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 center UPSs have evolved to attain high efficiency, smaller footprints, improved battery energy storage systems (ESS), and monitoring systems.

Moises Levy, PhD, Principal Analyst and lead of Omdia’s data center power, cooling and sustainability research practice, added, “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.”

To capture all viewpoints of this critical subject, Omdia surveyed a combination of data center 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, 77% (very confident and confident), and 98% (including somewhat confident) of respondents indicated they are confident 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 center. 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 center 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 microgrid applications which would most benefit from utilizing this technology.

The Omdia Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) Intelligence Service covers comprehensive insights and forecast of the UPS hardware and services markets. Omdia’s UPS trackers continue to evolve and build on our existing, detailed database of the market. 

“The data center 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 centers are already a force for good which is making the world more sustainable. With emergence and proliferation of smart grid ready UPS technology data centers are enabling an even more sustainable world,” concluded Vlad Galabov, Research Director at Omdia’s Cloud and Data Center Research Practice.

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