According to recent research released by Microsoft and Eaton, a power management company, data center generators could play a crucial role in assisting the local grid in managing some of the issues associated with the transition to renewable energy.
UPS systems, which are often in the kind of battery backups, are present in all data centres to offer emergency power so that workloads may continue to function even if there is a power outage.
UPSs, on the other hand, spend the majority of their lives unharmed because such incidents are uncommon. As a result, data centres have banks of unused battery banks, which is why Eaton and Microsoft are looking into whether the facilities’ UPSs could help protect the local grid against irregularities and failures.
Adding more renewable energy to the grid adds to the complexity, and one area of particular worry is the instability of solar and wind energy production.
Traditional power sources, such as coal and gas provide inertia to the grid. When the system experiences a shock, their turbines keep spinning momentarily due to the kinetic energy of the turbine’s spin, allowing some power to be generated for some time even if there is a problem. In other words, the rotating generators help to keep the grid stable.
Solar panels and wind turbines act in separate ways and cannot produce inertia. As a result, switching to renewable energy means foregoing the shock-absorbing benefits of existing energy sources, making the electricity grid far more vulnerable to unplanned outages.
Low inertia can cause massively disruptive blackouts in practice. For instance, in the United Kingdom, a lightning strike that shut down a gas power station and a wind farm resulted in the loss of power and disruption of over one million customers, with serious system problems impacting London commuters on the rail transport network.
“If we have assets that ensure grid dependability even with low inertia,” Janne Paananen, a technology manager at Eaton and co-author of the whitepaper, told ZDNet.
One method provides a Fast Frequency Response (FFR), which involves delivering electricity to the grid right away while slower reserves respond to a disturbance. In other words, it’s a band-aid solution that’s effectively the same as what UPSs are supposed to do.
Paananen explains, “UPSs are tailor-created for that necessity.” “They can deal with short-term system imbalances, and because those only last a short time, UPSs featuring smaller batteries are ideal for that.”