GreenMonk TV talks flywheel UPS’s with Active Power

I attended the 2011 DataCenterDynamics Converged conference in London recently and at it I chatted to a number of people in the data center industry about where the industry is going.

One of these was Active Power‘s Graham Evans. Active Power make flywheel UPS’s so we talked about the technology behind these and how they are now becoming a more mainstream option for data centers.

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone, welcome to GreenMonk TV, we are at the DCD Converge Conference in London and with me I have Graham Evans from Active Power. Graham you guys, you make the spinning UPSs.

Graham Evans: That?s right yes the flywheel UPSs, kinetic energy. So behind us here we have our powerhouse. So what we found with the flywheel UPS is because of its high density environment, the fact it doesn?t need cooling the fact that it is really suited to a containerized environment we?ve put it in a powerhouse to show the guys in DCD to show the benefits that we can provide from a systems perspective.

Tom Raftery: So what the flywheel UPS does is it takes in electricity, while the electricity is running, spins wheels really, really fast and then if there is a break it uses that kinetic energy to keep the system up.

Graham Evans: Not quite, so the flywheel itself is spinning all the time as an energy storage device. The UPS system is primarily conditioning the power. So as the power comes through it?s a parallel online system, all of the kilowatts flow through to the load and our converters regulate that power to make sure you get UPS grade output through to your critical load. At the same time the flywheel is spinning it?s sat there as a kinetic energy store ready to bridge the gap when its required to do so.

Active Power flywheel UPS

An Active Power flywheel UPS

So voltage or mains fails on the input, the flywheel itself changes state instantaneously from a motor to a generator and we extrapolate that kinetic energy through some converters to support the load, start our diesel engine, and that then becomes the primary power source through to the system.

Tom Raftery: And you got the diesel engine in fact built into the system here, it?s on the right hand side as we are looking at here. So there is a reason that you have your own diesel engine kind of fitted into in there.

Graham Evans: Yes, so we are not holding into one particular diesel engine manufacturer so what we do as a complete system is designed as a critical power solution. So the thought really is from a client point of view we can be flexible in terms of their requirements. We can size the engine to support the UPS load only or maybe we can pick up some mechanical loads as well. We make some enhancements to the diesel so we have our own diesel controller to start the diesel quickly. We have our own product we call GenSTART,which allows us to have a UPS backed starter mechanism to the system so we can use that UPS power to start it.

Tom Raftery: And that?s important because the flywheel don?t stay up as long as say a battery bank.

Graham Evans: Its important because this type of loads that we are supporting need that quick power restorations, so from a UPS point of view we need to restore or keep power instantaneously that?s the job of a UPS, no break power supply, but we also find with mechanical loads certainly in high density datacenter environments we need to restore the short break mechanical loads very quickly. So the system you see here is able to do that. We continuously support the UPS load and we can bring on the cooling load ten seconds afterwards. So very fast starting, very robust system.

Tom Raftery: And the whole flywheel UPS idea is relatively new comer to the datacenter environment?

Graham Evans: Not especially I think it feels like that sometimes but we have been around for 15 years as a business, we have 3000 plus installations worldwide, but certainly we are not as common place as some other technologies but we are probably one of the fastest growing companies globally. So, yeah not brand new 15 years in business, but yeah the concept?s really taken off and it?s been really successful for us.

Tom Raftery: Cool. Graham that?s been fantastic, thanks for coming to the show.

Graham Evans: No problem, thank you, cheers.


Power Assure automates the reduction of data center power consumption

Data centre

If you’ve been following this blog in the last couple of weeks you’ll have noticed that I have profiled a couple of data centre energy management companies – well, today it is the turn of Power Assure.

The last time I talked to Power Assure was two years ago and they were still very early stage. At that time I talked to co-founder and CTO, Clemens Pfeiffer, this time I spoke with Power Assure’s President and CEO, Brad Wurtz.

The spin that Power Assure put on their energy management software is that, not only do they offer their Dynamic Power Management solution which provides realtime monitoring and analytics of power consumption across multiple sites, but their Dynamic Power Optimization application automatically reduces power consumption.

How does it do that?

Well, according to Brad, clients put an appliance in each of the data centres they are interested in optimising (Power Assure’s target customer base are large organisations with multiple data centres – government, financial services, healthcare, insurance, telco’s, etc.). The appliance uses the management network to gather data – data may come from devices (servers, PDU’s, UPS’s, chillers, etc.) directly, or more frequently, it gathers data directly from multiple existing databases (i.e. a Tivoli db, a BMS, an existing power monitoring system, and/or inventory system) and performs Data Centre analytics on those data.

Data centre

The optimisation module links into existing system management software to measures and track energy demand on a per applications basis in realtime. It then calculates the amount of compute capacity required to meet the service level agreements of that application and adds a little bit of headroom. From the compute it knows the number of servers needed, so it communicates with the load balancer (or hypervisor, depending on the data centre’s infrastructure) and adjusts the size of the server pool to meet the required demand.

Servers removed from the pool can be either power capped or put in sleep mode. As demand increases the servers can be brought fully online and the load balancer re-balanced so the enlarged pool can meet the new level of demand. This is the opposite of the smart grid demand response concept – this is supply-side management – matching your energy consumption (supply to the demand for compute resources).

A partnership with Intel means that future versions will be able to turn off and on individual components or cores to more precisely control power usage.

The software is agentless and interestingly, given the customer profile Brad outlined (pharmas, financial institutions, governments, etc.), customers log in to view and manage their power consumption data because it is SaaS delivered.

The two case studies on their site make for interesting reading and show reductions in power consumption from 56% – 68% which are not to be sneezed at.

The one client referred to in the call is NASA and Power Assure are involved in a data centre consolidation program with them. Based on the work they have done with Power Assure, Brad informed me that NASA now expects to be able to consolidate their current 75 Data Centres significantly. That’ll make a fascinating case study!

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Photo credit cbowns


Sun’s Mark Monroe on energy efficient data centers

Sun made an announcement the other day about the opening of its new Broomfield data center.

It sounded like they had done a superb job so I asked Sun’s Director of Sustainable Computing, Mark Monroe to come on and tell us a little more about the project.

Some of the highlights of Sun’s announcement were:

  • Greater space efficiency: A scalable, modular datacenter based on the Sun Pod Architecture led to a 66 percent footprint compression, by reducing 496,000 square feet from the former StorageTek campus in Louisville, Colo. to 126,000 square feet;
  • Reduced electrical consumption: By 1 million kWh per month, enough to power 1,000 homes in Colorado;
  • Reduced raised floor datacenter space: From 165,000 square feet to less than 700 square feet of raised floor datacenter space, representing a $4M cost avoidance;
  • Greener, cleaner architecture: Including flywheel UPS that eliminates lead and chemical waste by removing the need for batteries, and a non-chemical water treatment system, saving water and reducing chemical pollution;
  • Enhanced scalability: Incorporated 7 MW of capacity that scales up to 40 percent higher without major construction;
    Innovative cooling: The world’s first and largest installation of Liebert advanced XD cooling system with dynamic cooling controls capable of supporting rack loads up to 30kW and a chiller system 24 percent more efficient than ASHRAE standards;
  • Overall excellence: Recognized with two Ace awards for Project of the Year from the Associated Contractors of Colorado, presented for excellence in design, execution, complexity and environmental application.