The Stack Archive Feature

How a data centre cut energy bills by £335,000

Mon 23 Apr 2018 | Chris Cutler

As data centre managers face up to the delicate balancing act of meeting calls for increased capacity with the pressing need to reduce their environmental impact, Chris Cutler, account manager and data centre efficiency expert at Riello UPS, explains how the power protection specialist has helped one facility cut their annual carbon footprint by almost 72% while slashing its electricity and cooling costs.

We had a feeling that headline would grab your attention! And while £335,000 might only cover a week’s wages for some of the country’s highest-earning Premier League footballers, for a data centre it amounts to a significant saving on their annual energy bill.

In our previous piece we outlined the significant pressures the data centre sector is facing to balance the data demands required by the ‘Internet of Things’ and an increasingly interconnected world with its corporate and financial obligation to reduce energy consumption and waste.

We also shared how the shift to modern, modular uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems is one of the most effective ways to significantly enhance energy efficiency without compromising on a reliable and resilient power supply.

But it’s far easier to see the benefits of those theories when you have a practical example to refer to – hard evidence that demonstrates the cost savings, the reductions in energy consumption and waste, and the cuts in carbon emissions.

Improving data centre energy efficiency using modular UPS

We recently worked on a substantial upgrade at two major data centres integral to the day-to-day operations of one of the world’s most recognisable consumer goods suppliers. Home to several popular household brands, the demands on the client’s data centres were sizeable, to say the least, and only set to increase at a rapid rate in the future.

As the sort of large organisation the Government had in mind when introducing strict mandatory carbon reporting legislation in 2013, improved efficiency was very much at the forefront of the business’s mind when the time had come to overhaul its critical power protection capabilities.

Their existing UPS system had first been fitted back in 2007. It was predominantly made up of large static 400 kVA and 800 kVA units, which, while cutting-edge at the time of installation, had since become dated and inefficient.

Many of the units operated on consistently low loads (25%, 19%, even 12%), which meant they were wasting vast quantities of energy. Overall UPS efficiency averaged just 92% – as low as 89% in the main switchroom – and because the units were so large and constantly generating such tremendous heat, the air conditioning needed to keep them cool and operating safely was immense. Cooling across both sites required 414 kW of energy a year, resulting in an eye-watering annual bill of more than £315,000.

breaking bad money riello

Data centre operators can find themselves spending enormous amounts on their energy bills

As we know only too well from last week’s article, UPS technology has improved considerably in the past decade, with modular, transformerless units offering giant leaps forward in terms of efficiency, reliability, and scalability.

So all the existing towers of bulky, transformer-based static UPSs were replaced with our modular Multi Power units.

Switchrooms which had previously housed several inefficient standalone units were upgraded with multiple modular chassis holding as many as 22 smaller 42 kW modules. This meant the new system was configured to closely match the datacentre’s actual power needs, resulting in less waste without compromising on performance or redundancy.

UPS efficiency jumped from an average of 92% to 96%, slashing energy waste across both sites. While as the modular units were much smaller and lighter than their predecessors, it drastically reduced the need for energy-intensive air conditioning.

‘Before’ & ‘After’ – data centre energy savings

The project’s top-line results have been exceptional, both in terms of the financial savings and improved environmental impact:

  • Annual energy savings of roughly 1.25 million kWh, enough to power 316 typical UK homes for a year
  • Running costs for the facility’s UPS systems and air conditioning cut by £335,000 a year
  • Cooling costs alone slashed by £226,000 (71.81%), requiring 297.3 kW energy less per year than previously needed
  • Total annual carbon emissions from the two data centres cut by 71.89% from 2,147kg to 603.5kg
  • A 59% per m2 footprint reduction, meaning more power and greater efficiency delivered in significantly less space, a hat-trick of benefits

Admittedly this initiative involved data centres at the larger end of the spectrum – major facilities where the cost of operating just the UPS power protection and cooling systems runs into millions of pounds a year.

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But the lessons here can be learned by operators and administrators at sites of all shapes and sizes. Improving efficiency through modern modular UPS’s can have a massive impact on a data centre’s bottom line by drastically reducing its energy bill. And it’s not just the financial benefits, the environmental benefits are clear too, not just for the datacentre but for wider society too.

It’s clear super-efficient uninterruptible power supply systems will have a pivotal role to play as the sector heads into a future of “doing more with less”.

Next time we’ll explore in more detail just how energy efficient UPS units can cut carbon emissions and energy consumption in datacentres of all sizes and structures.

Our ‘Cutting Carbon Emissions In Data Centres’ whitepaper covers ways to be energy efficient and shows data centre managers how to optimise their critical power protection systems in a way that helps balance the increased demand for data capacity without compromising on environmental performance.

Experts featured:

Chris Cutler

Business Development Manager
Riello UPS


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