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.


Implications of the data explosion for utilities

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in San Antonio, I caught up with Martin Mysyk, Senior Architect for TransAlta and we discussed the implications for utilities of the massive data explosion that is occurring in their industry right now.

Here is a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I?m at the SAP for Utilities event in San Antonio, Texas, and with me I have Martin Mysyk, who is the Enterprise Architect for TransAlta.

Martin, we?ve been talking about the amount of data utility companies you?re going to be dealing with and the mountain? I heard a talk earlier this year in Orlando, where one of the utility companies was talking about the change in meter reads from 75 million a year to 120 billion.

Now, there is also the other side away from smart meters and into just the devices on the grid itself and the amount of information they will be sending back to utility companies, what are they going to do with all this information and how are they going to handle it?

Martin Mysyk: Well, I think we do have to look at new ways of handling that amount of data, how we?re going to store it, how we?re going to back it up. And we?re monitoring so many more data points as we move from an analog world to a digital world. There?s an acceleration of the amount of data points where some of our assets may have had a couple of thousand data points we?re monitoring, taking in.

Some of our newer instrumentation generates 20,000 data points that we can monitor. So, that?s a large amount of — big influx of data that we have to — you want to keep it real time and that takes new techniques, new technology that we have to look at to be able to keep that on track and to be able to extract the information out that we need.

Tom Raftery: Okay, but 20,000 data points, is that too much? I mean, how can utility companies make any sense of that amount of data?

Martin Mysyk: That?s where you need another level of intelligence to layer on top of what you?re retrieving out of there, because you really — you can?t read that from a human perspective, you need software that looks for exceptions or things that are out of range to deal with those because whenever things are operating properly you don?t care about it. It?s just when there are exceptions or something?s going to impact your production capability that you want to know about that.

Tom Raftery: At the backend you?re going to need bigger servers, you?re going to need bigger failover facilities and all that?

Martin Mysyk: Yes, and the network ties it all together. So, wherever that is stored only high-speed networks have a lot of band with to carry the data, whether its onsite or everyone talks about being in the cloud. If you put it in the cloud, you are going to need lots of pipes to get it there.

Tom Raftery: This sounds like a lot of investment for utility companies, is it worth it?

Martin Mysyk: I think so, because we have to be aggressive on how we manage our data and our decision making capability needs to accelerate, because when we move into a more comparative global marketplace you have to have that decision making power and to do that you need the — to make information out of your data and that is only going to accelerate as time goes on.

Tom Raftery: Cool. Great. Martin, thanks a million.