Sustainability is an industry-wide pursuit, and as a result, it frequently wriggles its way into our DCD>Broadcasts. The question that is continually asked: how can we do more while using less?

During the 2021 DCD>New York series, we sat down to listen to Michael Sheppard, Technical Sales Manager for the USA and Canada with Piller Power Systems, talk about carbon reduction, and why increasing voltage (a little) might help reduce loss.

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It is this issue of sustainability that Piller Power Systems is digging to its very roots to understand and provide solutions.

“More power, more natural resources, for more people, houses, and cities. And we must strive to achieve this with less waste, fewer emissions, and less energy consumption. Simply put, we must do more with less, and this requires wider sustainability thinking and action in every aspect of our lives.

“This places greater emphasis on technology and design choices for the data center ecosystem. What materials are used in each aspect of the data center world? Is it recyclable? What are the losses associated with it?”

One of the major shifts we are seeing is an increased emphasis on renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. However, these natural resources can be temperamental. As data centers increasingly rely on renewables, the resiliency of the backup energy system must also be reinforced, without compromising sustainability.

“Considering all of this, we are now seeing the new power triangle emerge. In traditional power systems, the power flowed from utility to load and supply equaled demand, change in load would be met by a change in utility supply. Adding the UPS is simply providing a second alternative source, but the power flow remained left to right.

“Using a bi-directional UPS as part of the microgrid system is something different. In microgrids, the utility can become a load itself as demand outweighs variable supplies. When a variable supply outweighs load demands the energy store absorbs the excess in a bi-directional UPS.”

The resulting improved energy storage and sustainability can be further enhanced by taking a good look at the voltage involved.

“Low voltage has a practical limit at high power levels, it needs more systems, more CapEx, more failures, more objects, and this does not apply to medium voltage.

“Here's a quick comparison of losses in both a low voltage and a medium voltage scheme of a 10 MVA distribution system. What can be seen here is in the large losses associated with low voltage solutions in the UPS cables transformation infrastructure.

“The first configuration is low voltage all the way through and we observe 6.4 percent In total losses. The second configuration is a low voltage UPS with medium voltage distribution using step up and step down transformers, and we see 7.4 percent in total losses.

“Now the third is a medium voltage UPS and distribution showing less cable transformation and we see that we have 3.9 percent in total losses. So, clearly medium voltage distribution for power at scale has its benefits.”

The benefits of medium voltage solutions are quantifiable – (literally two-thirds of the loss of low voltage.) But this does not express what these losses truly look like, losses of money, safety, and sustainability.

“In a medium-voltage solution, there is less material, fewer cables meaning 80 percent less copper and PVC, less steel, and cable armor. Large systems enable you to consolidate on transformation arrangement and that can reduce the plant floor space by up to 25 percent which means less real estate and building materials.

“In a medium-voltage solution, there is less energy usage. Cable grouping in low voltage systems leads to mutual heating and higher losses. The consolidation of transformers in a large system can cut the losses by up to 60 percent. Feeder losses can then be reduced and, in fact, the whole grid to rack losses can be reduced significantly.

“Medium voltage breakers even contribute to sustainability goals. Endurance tests have shown that reliability can be increased by the medium voltage breakers by nearly a factor of three. They have lower arc flash characteristics than low voltage breakers, less heat, less maintenance, and fewer terminations.”

Download the full episode to learn more about microgrids and BESS concepts.