How UPS are enabling a more efficient, more sustainable and more evironmentally friendly industry

Power Control
22 Apr 2021

What is Earth Day?

Celebrated on the 22nd of April every year since 1970, Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental campaign focussed on changing international mindsets to combat the global climate emergency. With a different theme each year, the principles remain the same, moving away from the disposable economy that has had detrimental effects on our planet and looks to adopt a sustainable way of life.

Having emerged because of the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, 45 years later a crowning achievement arose and Earth Day was chosen by the United Nations as the day the Paris Agreement would be signed. Nearly 200 countries are committed to meeting the demands of an ever environmentally conscious population by keeping global warming to 1.5C and achieving net-zero by 2050. This means that for every tonne of carbon dioxide produced, a tonne must be extracted from the atmosphere.

Now in its 51st year, the Earth Day movement has been holding industries accountable for their role in the environmental crisis whilst calling for innovative solutions to challenge traditional industrial processes that release the highest carbon emissions.

Ranking industries by their negative contribution to the environment is not a linear process and has many layers such as water usage, heat wastage, chemical usage and chemical production. However, the most straight forward pollutant to measure and the one that is most talked about is carbon emissions.

The 7 industries accountable for most carbon emission include Agriculture, fashion, food retail, transport, construction, and perhaps the most ambiguous, technology. One of the biggest industrial contributions to carbon emissions coming from the production of energy using fossil fuels is unsustainable and produces large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Renewable Energy and UPS

As the UK is steadily switching to renewables, experts say much more effort is needed to store energy produced when the weather is right. The amount of energy captured from wind will also need to be hugely upscaled to provide the extra electricity needed by industry, and for other things like charging electric vehicles and producing the hydrogen needed to clean up industries like steel manufacturing.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen the rapid emergence of technologies supporting renewable energy. Thanks to the technological advancements and the significant reduction in the price of lithium-ion batteries, they could soon be used for large grid scale storage in an attempt to clean up the grid and replace fossil fuel plants.

The UK Government’s 10-point plan states that the UK would ensure about 40GW of wind would come on stream by 2030. As the amount of energy produced from renewable resources fluctuates daily, the requirement to store energy is paramount. On particularly windy or sunny days, the additional energy produced would need to be stored in systems such as modified UPS using Lithium-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries provide a high energy density, increased maximum lifecycles and longer working life than other batteries such as the traditional VRLA which makes them ideal for storing energy.

The amount of power that can be stored/pushed back on to the grid is dependent on several variables. One of which is the number of batteries used. It is possible to configure the bespoke energy storage system with a large UPS system and a small number of battery strings or a small UPS system and a large number of battery strings. The variations affect power availability and runtimes.

Blog: Energy Storage: The Value of UPS Systems for Variable Renewable Resources

Lithium-Ion UPS Solutions

Data centres have also pledged to reduce their carbon emissions as they strive to achieve a PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) of as close to 1 as possible. PUE is the widely accepted metric used to determine the overall energy efficiency of a data centre and over the years it has become an industry benchmark for efficiency.

While new build data centres are easily consuming new green technology into their structures, older facilities are looking to increase efficiencies by replacing old equipment. After cooling, old UPS systems are one of the largest contributors to PUE. Data Centres still operating on old transformer based technology are missing out on obtaining those higher levels of efficiency.

Modular UPS are often the most efficient as their capacity can be adapted to the needs of the data centre. Running a modular UPS close to their maximum rated capacity means they run at their best efficiency. Transfomerless monolithic UPS systems are also significantly more efficient than transformer based systems as they can reach efficiencies of >98%

While transformer based technology has its place in applications requiring a more rugged solution, to achieve the highest efficiencies, transformerless and modular UPS are much better.

By adopting this new way of thinking and operating, more and more data centres are already achieving leading PUE ratios of around 1.2.

Lithium-ion batteries are also an emerging technology in the data centre industry, providing another way of achieving increased levels of efficiency. For example, Lithium-ion batteries can operate at a wider temperature tolerance which helps to maintain optimal network device efficiency and greatly reduce costs over time.

The benefits of this emerging technology don’t just stop at the data centre industry. As the cost of the batteries continues to fall, more industries will look to harness its numerous advantages.

Blog: The Benefits of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Data Centre UPS Systems

Circular Economy

Another angle of commitment to environmental sustainability is the philosophy of a circular economy which addresses the lifecycle of resources and looks to extend these as far as possible. Through recycling, reusing and redeploying the circular economy moves away from a ‘take-make-dispose’ industrial process.

As a supplier of uninterruptible power supplies, Power Control Ltd understand that a key aspect of a circular economy is that it requires collaboration and moves beyond working in silos. Which is why Power Control only partner with UPS manufacturers who share the same environmental values working in industrial symbiosis.

Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) have a clearly defined life expectancy which is largely dictated by the internal batteries and components. One of the main challenges is to create value from the UPS system once it has reached the end of its useful life.

As outlined in Power Control’s Corporate Social Responsibility document, when replacing a UPS that is considered at the end of its usable life, it is stripped unit for all its recyclable material. For example, once the batteries in a UPS reach their end of life, rather than disposing of them in landfill, Power Control comply with WEEE regulation and promote recycling. This minimises waste and stimulates the development of more environmentally friendly products for the future.

Reinforcing its commitment to environmental sustainability, Power Control closely monitors the impacts that both on and offsite activities has on the environment and include returning onsite waste generated by Power Control back to the head office to be collected by an approved waste carrier to be recycled appropriately.

Blog: Manufacturing A Circular Economy – The Hot Topic of 2019

Working with businesses of all sizes across the country, Power Control supplies, installs, commissions and maintains backup power solutions for all applications. For more information please visit, email or call the office on 01246 925936