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Spend To Save

12 November 2008

In the current economic climate, expenditure on capital equipment may be viewed as a low priority. Peter Bentley, argues that investing in your power protection system provides a valuable return by reducing energy bills and safeguarding revenue streams.

WITH THE CREDIT CRUNCH AND FINANCIAL DOWNTURN, it might seem to be the worst time to incur capital costs. However, as well as contending with deteriorating mains electricity and the threat of supply shortfalls, businesses also face rising energy costs and an increasing regulatory burden regarding carbon emissions. Firms are also pursuing wider strategic aims on energy efficiency and environmental
performance. Investing in a right-sized modular uninterruptible power supply (UPS), instead of maintaining an older legacy style system, can provide significant financial benefits. Dramatic reductions in cost can be achieved by installing a unit correctly sized to current needs, whilst still offering redundancy and capacity for growth.

When compared with conventional parallel protection systems, decentralized modules reduce electricity costs, heat loss and CO2 emissions, while delivering the industry’s smallest footprint and N+1 parallel redundancy.

Energy costs are directly proportional to a system’s efficiency at a defined load. UPS systems do not, and should not, work under full load conditions, but tend to work under partial load conditions to allow some power capacity contingency. It is therefore important to pay attention to the inner architecture of a UPS system, especially in relation to performance and efficiency under partial load conditions.

For most mission critical loads, parallel redundant 1+1 systems deliver less than 50 percent of the load power per UPS. This implies lower efficiency than a single non-redundant UPS solution. With modular UPS, smaller power units are configured in parallel, for example three small modules instead of two large standalone systems. This also achieves redundancy, but with the advantage of a considerably higher
efficiency under partial load conditions.

Over £145,000 could be saved over five years by replacing a 10 year old 400kVA parallel redundant UPS system, running at 45 percent of its rated capacity, with a new Decentralized Parallel Architecture 200kVA parallel redundant UPS system.

Protecting revenue
With fragile market conditions and tight margins, it is even more important to ensure continuous trading, since system downtime can have a catastrophic effect on business operations and vital income. Many modern UPS systems can virtually guarantee protection against increasingly common power losses, ensuring the highest availability of critical loads and uptime for essential IT and communications functions.

While the benefits of protecting business critical applications are generally well recognised, there are still many companies reliant on old stand-alone UPSs, incorrectly sized for today’s increased loads. Without adequate protection, hours or days of trading can be lost and, unfortunately, there are numerous examples of companies which have gone into liquidation as a result of mains power failures. System exposure to power losses can have damaging consequences:

....Business interruption - inability to trade or communicate

....Manufacturing interruption - production loss or equipment damage
....Software crash - data loss or corruption

....Hardware failure - component damage

The high volume of transactions and enquiries that rely on the Internet or on call centres, and the expectation of rapid access and response, mean that in a highly competitive marketplace even short-term interruptions to systems can drive fickle customers to alternative suppliers. Brand loyalty can be quickly outweighed by ease of availability, so system uptime is invaluable for securing transactions, maximizing revenues, and maintaining market confidence and goodwill.

Today’s modular UPS systems are uniquely designed to remove any single point of failure, achieving virtually zero downtime and the elimination of costly disruptions to mission critical operations.

Decentralized Parallel ArchitectureTM, pioneered by Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd, works by paralleling independent rack-format UPS modules. This means that each individual module contains all the necessary hardware and software required for full system operation. With all critical components duplicated and distributed between the independent modules, potential single points of failure are eradicated, giving
guaranteed system uptime.

With a minimum of one module over and above that required by the ‘capacity’ system, the load is supported with inverter power if any one module shuts down, thereby increasing system reliability – an important factor at a time when power supply in the UK is becoming less dependable but more critical to business operations.

Capital cost
The purchase price of a traditional UPS system can be typically 10 to 15 percent less than that of an advanced modular UPS system. However, the purchase price is not the only decisive factor when considering overall costs. The lower purchase price of traditional UPS technology must be offset against significantly higher operating costs in comparison with a modular system based on technology which reduces energy loss costs. The higher cost of the modular system is recovered within the first year of operation. A comparison of additional longterm costs also favours modular technology.

Upgrade cost
Upgrading a traditional UPS demands extra space, costly cabling and potentially involves taking the UPS system off line during the upgrade. With a modular UPS, the upgrade is performed by simply inserting the additional power modules into the rack. For example, three 50kVA modules may be upgraded by inserting
one or two additional modules in the same cabinet, provided the electrical infrastructure has been specified for the maximum foreseeable requirement. Such upgrades can be performed without any interruption to the load, without increasing the footprint, and with no additional work on site. This flexibility makes upgrading a
system very easy, and with very little additional cost.

● Peter Bentley, IEng, MIIE, is sales & marketing director at Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd. and is a founder of the company.

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