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Taking Steps Towards Carbon Neutrality with Hybrid Ecosystems

As a Senior Application Engineer at Vertiv, I had the opportunity to host a webinar titled "Helping You Achieve Carbon Savings with Hybrid Ecosystems." I discussed insights and practical recommendations for achieving carbon neutrality, specifically in data centers. Given the global emphasis on environmental improvement, exploring more sustainable solutions in the technology sector has become imperative.

The alarming statistics cannot be ignored. According to the European Commission, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, setting a record of 57.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e). It's projected to further elevate by 1.1% in 2023. These figures emphasize the urgency for action.

Thankfully, global momentum exists to combat climate change and pursue sustainable development goals. Many countries, such as those in the European Union (EU), have implemented regulations: the European Green Deal, the European Energy Efficiency Directive, and the European Code of Conduct for Data Centers. The UK government also has plans to implement a new carbon pricing mechanism for imports of carbon-intensive products. These initiatives aim to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those from delivery logistics. 

During the webinar, I discussed practical ways to create more sustainable data centers that prioritize energy efficiency, minimize resource consumption, and promote environmental responsibility. These include reliable intelligent control systems, battery energy storage systems (BESS), and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems. I invite you to explore the path toward a sustainable future for data centers and beyond.

Watch the full recording here.

European Regulatory Systems on Carbon Savings

The European Commission implemented the European Green Deal to reduce the carbon footprint of various industries, aiming to put the EU on the path of becoming the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. The Deal’s key objectives are:    

  • Zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050
  • Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels
  • 3 billion additional trees planted in the EU by 2030
  • Economic expansion independent of resource consumption
  • No person or place is left behind

The European Green Deal requires all member states to review their policies and contribute to promoting a seamless transition to carbon neutrality. The EU has also implemented the European Energy Efficiency Directive to meet this goal. With an emphasis on reusing waste heat, this directive aims to reduce carbon emissions by 11.7% by 2030 to achieve the Deal's goal of 55% cut by the same year. Data centers with an IT load consuming more than 500 kW are expected to perform mandatory reporting of energy usage and CO2 emissions directly to the European Commission. Germany lowered this threshold to 300kW.

Hybrid Ecosystems for Carbon Savings

To contribute to the European Green Deal's objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, data center operators can make a positive impact by adopting more sustainable and eco-friendly practices. By incorporating hybrid ecosystems, data centers can meet their power needs and play a crucial role in promoting carbon neutrality and helping local communities.

A hybrid ecosystem combines various energy sources, both renewable and non-renewable, to provide a reliable, uninterrupted power supply. With solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, and traditional grid power, data centers can balance usage between different energy sources depending on availability, cost, and environmental factors. This system optimizes energy use, enhances efficiency, and reduces carbon emissions, aiding carbon neutrality.

Besides contributing to environmental sustainability, hybrid ecosystems promote sustainable development by enabling energy independence and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. By adopting such innovative solutions, data centers can contribute to realizing the European Green Deal's vision of a carbon-neutral future.

Carbon Savings in Power Management Systems

The term “carbon savings” refers to reducing carbon emissions during electricity generation by implementing energy-efficient data center practices and using both internal and external alternative power sources. For data center operators and owners, relying on a battery energy storage system (BESS) or an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) is essential to ensure robust power management within a hybrid ecosystem. But with modern technology, they can now use BESS to save carbon and actual running costs, generating savings and, potentially, income.

BESS can be a reliable backup power source, which can quickly activate (2mS) in response to power failures or fluctuations from carbon-free electricity sources like solar. A BESS can operate as a standalone and be paired with a UPS. This enables a seamless transition between power sources, ensuring uninterrupted IT operations while optimizing energy utilization where a traditional UPS is not required.

While acknowledging the feasibility of using batteries with alternative power sources, consider integrating hydrogen fuel cells into BESS and/or UPS as a practical and innovative approach to power supply. It can be employed within data centers, with an efficiency rate of approximately 50%, which is an improvement compared to the 30% efficiency of traditional diesel generators.

There is an opportunity to use waste heat generated by the other 50% energy for local heating or on selected agricultural processes. For example, a Norwegian data center has reused its waste heat to grow lobsters. Other strategies data center operators and owners can explore to reduce carbon footprint involve:  

  • Making IT spaces more energy-efficient by upgrading old IT equipment, ensuring servers operate optimally and cooling systems are used effectively by stopping air mixing and other techniques.
  • Using time-of-day techniques to shift demand onto BESS to prevent gas-fired stations from starting can be rewarded with “Scope 2” carbon credits.
  • Green shifting or obtaining and storing carbon-free electricity for later use within a BESS
  • Using hydrogen or other alternative energy to generate electricity for critical applications and using waste heat as detailed above.
  • Moving electrical demand onto BESS during peak stress and consequent high price periods using time-of-day techniques, can again create savings and income.
  • Using BESS to manage loads, including charging hybrid vehicles with high peak loads.
  • Diverting solar and wind generation into batteries during high electrical output or low grid prices.
  • Using software to schedule IT work to lower peak kW loadings with EASE scheduling.

With hybrid ecosystems, switching quickly between energy sources is essential to avoid disruptions in operations, given the need to respond rapidly to signals from the internet. This may be achieved using static switches. Additionally, exploring the combination of various technologies may be beneficial to maximize revenue opportunities on the grid.

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Power Automation Systems may be used to optimize power management and create resiliency, ensuring operational uptime remains uncompromised. Once operational, these systems proactively envisage risks before they occur. If necessary, they also intervene to mitigate these risks with a quick, automatic reaction based on predefined user scenarios or sequence of operations, maintaining uptime.

Additionally, such systems can enhance efficiency in data centers through real-time data gathering, including energy monitoring, processing, and analysis, enabling data-informed decisions for greater visibility and carbon savings. This could also be used to help achieve the European Green Deal objectives.

Vertiv Solution: Vertiv™ Liebert® Cross

The Vertiv™ Liebert® Cross is a family of system static switches available in rack, cabinet, and chassis versions. This series ensures maximum reliability for critical loads by eliminating system failures caused by distribution problems rather than power source issues. Its Break Before Make transfer function guarantees that two live feeds are never paralleled, eliminating potential risks. To ensure secure energy, the Vertiv™ Liebert® Cross allows critical loads to switch between two power supplies safely under synchronous and asynchronous conditions relative to input waveforms.

Vertiv Solution: Vertiv™ Energy Power Management Systems (EPMS)

The Vertiv™ Energy Power Management Systems (EPMS), which includes solutions such as SCADA, is a robust solution that facilitates remote control and monitoring within a facility, working alongside Programmable Logic and Automation Controllers. This system offers a customized display of the entire power distribution network and generates reports based on predefined or custom templates. It alerts operators through email or text messages about alarms or events and provides secure remote access.  

Vertiv™ EPMS’ SCADA can be integrated with third-party hardware, such as UPSs and other PDUs, generator systems, and building management systems, broadening the facility overview. Moreover, it can be configured to manage other hardware components and is compatible with protocols such as Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP/IP, M-Bus, SNMP, and DNP3.

Energy Transformation and Grid Stability 

All electrical energy national grids are controlled using electrical supply frequency. As loads or sources are connected or disconnected from the grid, frequency fluctuations can pose a significant risk to energy transformation and grid stability, mainly when faults occur. If there is excess energy, the grid frequency will increase, while a spike in demand will cause the grid frequency to decrease.

Source: National Grid Electricity System Operator

Figure 1. A real UK event that nearly crashed the grid at 28mS, causing blackouts and public service failures. – Note: DAR = Distributed Energy Resources

In countries with dynamic pricing, the cost varies according to supply and demand rules. Maintaining a steady frequency is essential, as an unstable one can lead to grid failure, making it difficult to recover the whole grid system if the limits are exceeded. During a fault illustrated above, “spot market” prices can rocket, but BESS with exceptional responsiveness can take over, controlling the prices. Users with battery systems can implement grid balancing services to stabilize the grid and offset the significant impact of a failure or fault on the grid system. These solutions may be optimized to:

  • Generate new revenue streams
  • Boost cost-saving opportunities
  • Improve operational resilience
  • Alleviate grid supply constraints
  • Store carbon-free energy

Vertiv Solution: Vertiv™ DynaFlex Battery Energy Storage System (BESS)

The Vertiv™ DynaFlex Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) is an unrivaled solution for hybrid ecosystems because of its high flexibility, reliability, and scalability. This state-of-the-art system boosts power reliability, vital for maintaining operational resilience in today's fast-paced digital environments.

The Vertiv™ DynaFlex BESS is also a champion in aiding organizations to reduce operational expenditure and carbon emissions tied to energy use, actively contributing to a more sustainable future. When used with Vertiv™ DynaFlex Energy Management System (EMS), it empowers the distribution and generation of assets to achieve similar goals. Its scalability, ranging from 250kW to 100MW, ensures it can cater to various facility sizes. Therefore, Vertiv™ DynaFlex BESS is the superior choice for a more eco-friendly, reliable, and cost-efficient power solution.

UPS for Carbon Offset 

Data centers can be active in maintaining grid stability while taking steps toward achieving carbon neutrality. One of the ways to accomplish this is by exporting excess battery energy back into the network. This can be done using the underutilized battery capacity to store extra grid energy. Due to server load reduction, many data centers have battery systems that are oversized in kWh terms. By doing so, data centers can generate additional revenue while reducing the load on the grid and contribute to grid stability by exporting later or using the energy at peak cost times.

It is important to note that these functionalities can only be found in newer and advanced UPS systems. Thus, using UPS units with battery energy, data centers can work to reduce carbon footprint while maintaining an efficient and reliable power supply.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider the following features when selecting a UPS for a data center to ensure optimal performance and efficiency:

  1. High-Efficiency Rate: Advanced UPS systems are designed to operate efficiently, reducing energy consumption, and contributing to lower carbon emissions from grid generators.
  2. Scalability: These UPS systems offer scalability, allowing for the addition of extra power modules as site IT demand increases.
  3. Battery Health Monitoring: Incorporating advanced algorithms for monitoring the health and performance of the battery, enabling early detection of potential issues, and helping to prevent system downtime.
  4. Integration with BESS: Advanced UPS can be seamlessly integrated with a BESS, enhancing power backup security and promoting efficient energy utilization.
  5. Energy-Saver Mode: This feature allows the UPS to operate even more efficiently during low-load conditions and good grid conditions.
  6. Smart Management: Most advanced UPS systems offer innovative management features, allowing operators to monitor and manage the BESS, UPS, or battery systems remotely.
  7. Compatibility with Alternative Energy Sources: Some UPS systems are compatible with alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, offering a forward-looking approach to a more sustainable power supply.

Vertiv Solution: Vertiv™ Liebert® UPS Systems

Due to advanced engineering and design, the Vertiv™ Liebert® UPS Systems are an ideal solution for hybrid ecosystems. These systems have innovative technology that maximizes energy efficiency and response time, making them suitable for organizations that demand high-performance power solutions combined with energy-saving technologies. More than just a power backup, the Liebert UPS Systems enable the seamless integration of renewable energy sources and provide dynamic grid support, thus reducing the load on the grid and contributing to carbon footprint reduction.

The system's ability to capitalize on underutilized battery capacity can generate significant revenue while reducing energy waste. Notably, some of these systems are scalable and adaptable, accommodating different organizations' unique needs, making them a preferred choice for businesses aiming to optimize their energy systems and add value and income to their operations.

Conclusion: Energy Efficiency and Reliability with Vertiv Solutions 

Reliability and energy efficiency monitoring and reporting are no longer optional for businesses. They are crucial for operational success and corporate responsibility for acting against global climate change. By adopting a hybrid ecosystem with renewable sources and innovative solutions, such as BESS, UPS, and intelligent control systems, data centers can significantly enhance their energy efficiency, promote cost savings, and contribute to reducing carbon footprint. 

Vertiv is a global leader in critical data continuity, providing holistic solutions designed with the needs of data centers in mind, including those adopting hybrid ecosystems to support the transition to more sustainable power sources. Data centers with this setup can expect redundancy, reliability, and energy savings with our monitoring and power management units, such as the Vertiv™ DynaFlex Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), Vertiv™ Liebert® UPS Systems, Vertiv™ Energy Power Management Systems (EPMS), and the Vertiv™ Liebert® Cross. These solutions aid in maintaining operational excellence, ensuring peak performance with a reduced carbon footprint and optimal energy savings.

To learn more about reducing carbon footprint with hybrid ecosystems, watch the webinar or read the whitepaper titled “Achieving Carbon Neutrality with Hybrid Eco-Systems: Strategies for Combining Sustainability with Reliability.”

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