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uninterruptible power supply

Don'’t let diesel issues bug your critical power

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

For many years, the diesel back-up generator has been a symbol of reliability for data centres, providing the emergency power to keep servers online during utility power outages. Standard data centre design includes an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which can keep systems running during a mains power cut.

However, equipment will only stay online for the life of the battery in the UPS. For back-up power during an extended outage, a standby generator is the only viable choice. The most important consideration for these environments is to ensure that back-up power is constantly available.

Many data centres invest in standby generators to ensure power, and therefore data, is not lost in the event of a power failure.  With any luck, these machines will last for months, years, or even decades without the need to be used - however, when and if the time comes, it is critical to ensure  they will be fit for purpose.

To ensure this does not happen, many data centre teams and managers will have robust testing and maintenance procedures in place to test the generators, but many neglect to consider a very vital component – the diesel fuel that powers these machines. The contamination of which, can cause generators to fail and millions of pounds of data to be compromised or lost.

With generators sitting stagnant for so long, there is a very real risk that the fuel they run off can become contaminated, so if the machine does ever have to be used in the event of a power failure, it may not do the job it is there to do.

Fuel contamination can come from a number of sources and can include water, acids, resins and gums – all capable of blocking filters. Even something as simple as rainwater getting in to a fuel tank can cause costly damage to equipment, a lengthy cleaning process, and, most worryingly, the failure of a generator that is meant to ensure data is kept secure.

Biodiesel legislation loosens protection

One of the biggest issues in this era of more environmentally friendly bio-diesel fuels is ‘diesel bug’ – a fungus that grows in diesel that can potentially be fatal to the working of generators.

Prior to 2011 legislation that changed the make-up of diesel fuel, high sulphur levels in diesel managed to kill off most of the fungus and bugs, that grow as a result of water contamination, but with the introduction of new legislation on reduced sulphur levels, this 'protection' is no longer there. The bio-diesel blends now widely used for generators are more hydroscopic than old petro-diesel products, meaning it naturally absorbs more water from the atmosphere.

This water contamination means that diesel bug is able to thrive – the use of plant and animal matter used to produce these fuels provides ideal nutrition to the microbes, which can all lead to fuel becoming compromised.


The presence of diesel bug in fuel can lead to failures as the biomass they produce can cause blockages of engine filters. This is due to the advent of improved technology, meaning that diesel engine fuel systems now have tighter tolerances and are therefore susceptible to abrasions and blockages, which cause generators to fail.

If diesel bug is detected in fuel, it can be eradicated with the use of a broad spectrum biocide, which acts as an effective antibacterial and antifungal agent to kill the microbes present. However, this will not prevent one of the worst case scenarios from the arrival of diesel bug, commonly known as ‘bio-film’ – a layer of microbes that spreads across the inside of the fuel tank itself as a result of spores released from the fungus in the fuel.

These bio-films then release acid which can corrode fuel tanks, engines and pipes, causing irreparable damage. Even if bio-film is caught before this point, treatment can involve a tank cleaning process, although this can be achieved without removal of the fuel from the tank.

Prevention is better than cure

However, there are a number of ways to overcome these issues, and, as with many problems, prevention is better than cure. The key to maintaining fuel quality and preventing fuel contamination problems, therefore avoiding expensive engine damage, equipment downtime and data loss, is adopting a holistic approach to fuel management and taking care of generator diesel fuel.

The first step towards this is to establish a regular fuel maintenance programme, managed by the generator user with help from companies such as ours, to ensure water and dirt are removed from storage tanks. This will greatly reduce the risk of diesel bug and other detritus that causes breakdowns.

This should include a comprehensive a fuel monitoring programme whereby samples are taken at regular intervals to monitor the condition of fuel - these can then be tested for any impairments or issues, which can then be tackled accordingly before any serious problems are caused. If the beginnings of any issues are identified at this point, simply using fuel additives can be enough to nip the problem in the bud.

However, one of the most important investments you can make to truly ensure that you will have back-up power when you need it most are fuel polishing products. Designed to preserve the quality of stored diesel fuel, they constantly re-circulate fuel through a series of filtration stages removing water and solid particle contamination.


Fuel polishing system from IPU

To ensure ease of use for users, these can be made to function automatically, although they should be checked at regular intervals. What this fuel polishing product therefore does is ensure that fuel is kept primed for use when you may need it, reducing the risk of unpredictable failure of critical diesel driven equipment.

With a worldwide shift towards the use of more sustainable or ‘greener’ fuels such as biodiesel, there arrives a raft of new issues for those reliant on generators to keep their intellectual property safe. The serious compromise of fuel can not only cause engine failure, but it can also lead to the need to dispose of contaminated fuel, which defeats the object of switching to greener practices.

Simple tasks undertaken to protect the diesel in generators can not only avoid this, but will also protect the data that you have been entrusted to manage. As a bare minimum we recommend the use of fuel polishing and additives for stored fuel, backed up by the introduction of robust fuel management and testing procedures.

While often overlooked, these small procedures, which are surprisingly time and cost effective, can mean the difference between keeping a data centre safe and a potentially catastrophic loss of power.

Testing Times

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Facilities managers working in NHS-run hospitals will undoubtedly be familiar with health and safety legislation and guidance surrounding the issue of resilience. Essentially, resilience is the ability of a building and its services to withstand the impact of an incident or emergency. Such emergencies might include acts of terrorism, civil disturbances, storm damage and unplanned interruptions to utility supplies.

Emergency planning measures and detailed risk assessments are carried out in order to prevent loss of power. Furthermore, hospitals are legally required to ensure that systems must be reliable, available, maintainable and economic (in terms of efficiency).

Due to historically high levels of grid reliability, disruptions to electricity supplies are rare. To mitigate against loss of power, all healthcare premises are connected to the public electrical supply (PES), which is provided and operated by a local distribution network operator (DNO). It is recommended, where possible, that larger healthcare premises should be supplied with a dual PES from separate DNO substations. These, in turn, should ideally be fed from separate parts of the National Grid in order to avoid having a single point of mains failure.

In addition to a dual PES, hospitals are also equipped with emergency standby power generators, which are designed to offer significant power capacity in the event of a supply interruption or outage. 

Critical power

The increasing use of power-hungry devices within hospitals can result in electrical infrastructure running at full capacity. IT equipment, air conditioning and vital electronic diagnostic and monitoring medical equipment all require a constant supply of uninterruptible power. Without this, patient health is put at risk, particularly in departments such as operating theatres, cardiac wards, A&E and radiography, where life-support equipment is used. Non-clinical and support departments also rely on secure power supplies to maintain vital services and provide continuity of care.

Legal obligations, business continuity and reducing clinical and non-clinical risks are important reasons why a thorough resilience testing regime is essential for hospitals. Recent events in the US demonstrated how inadequate standby power contingency plans forced several hospitals and medical centres to close and evacuate patients following Hurricane Sandy.  In the UK, the failure of a 500 kVA standby power generator was caused by an excessive electrical load at Watford General Hospital in November 2004 .

Demand response

Recently, several NHS-run hospitals throughout the UK have improved their standby power resilience testing regimes through a programme called ‘demand response’ (DR). Demand response is an increasingly popular green alternative to the expensive carbon-heavy ‘peaking power stations’ that the National Grid relies on during times of grid stress.

The process involves electricity demand management whereby participants temporarily switch off or turn down non-essential power. Alternatively, companies can switch over to their existing independent standby power generators for a short period of time - usually around an hour. This reduces electricity use and helps National Grid to meet the needs of the country at times of grid stress without having to fire up expensive and dirty coal-fired power stations, or to import electricity from abroad.

Like a car engine, generators require frequent use to keep them working efficiently and, in order to ensure emergency preparedness, should be tested at least once a month. Testing ‘off-load’ can cause poor combustion, soot formation, clogging of injector rings and unburned fuel creating oil contamination.

Fuel kept in storage for extended periods of time can lead to further deterioration and damage. Demand response allows standby generators to be tested ‘on-load’ and at full capacity, making it an ideal way to prove engine resilience and optimise performance. Generators are most valuable in DR programmes where they are able to synchronise with the mains grid supply because they can support significant site electrical loads.

Recurring revenue

The National Grid is willing to pay organisations to use less electricity at times when it is struggling to meet peak demand. It is able to do this because it is cheaper than paying for polluting coal-fired power stations to be kept ‘warm’ or on standby in order to meet this occasional extra demand for energy.

Larger organisations, such as NHS-run hospitals, can earn up to £100,000 ($158,000) per year by participating in a DR programme with no upfront costs to pay. The installation of smart grid metering equipment and, if necessary, integration with existing building management systems, is carried out with no upfront cost by some DR aggregators such as KiWi Power.  

Increasing numbers of facility management staff working in hospitals are beginning to see the value of utilising their existing standby power assets for DR, or are incorporating DR measures when planning upgrades to electrical infrastructure.

Lister hospitalLister Hospital is an acute NHS-run hospital in Hertfordshire that is currently participating in a DR programme. The hospital recently upgraded its electrical systems, which included a new combined heat and power plant (CHP). To help ensure the hospital had a reliable standby power solution in the event of a power failure, it installed new on-site generators and duplicate electricity feeds.

Together with lower carbon CHP technology, Lister Hospital is provided with 4.5 MW which can be dispatched to provide short-term operating reserve (STOR) and is able to avoid peak energy tariffs through TRIAD management.

Demand response aggregator and smart grid company KiWi Power, was responsible for the project management and support for the deployment of four newly installed 2 MVA, LV diesel generators, which provide full back-up for a new 5 MVA, duplicate 11 kV feed from UK Power Networks. It also implemented a system for controlling and monitoring these generators remotely from its smart grid operations centre in London. Remote monitoring of the hospital’s standby power equipment allows facility managers to be contacted immediately should any problems arise.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust provides healthcare services to around 370,000 people from Colchester and the surrounding area of north-east Essex. Within one month of being awarded the contract, KiWi Power upgraded the electrical services and increased the load capacity of Colchester General Hospital. The DR programme allows a fully remote automated start from KiWi Power’s control room and has improved the Trust’s resilience testing regime, improved energy bill savings and generated a new revenue stream for the hospital.

Emissions control

A DR programme mitigates the risks associated with poorly managed backup energy supplies. The advantages of such a scheme are: costly load bank testing is reduced; an improvement in generator reliability at times of mains failure; hour-long run times so no alteration to generator cooling is required; and the replacement of a normal testing schedule with a revenue-generating load test exercise.

Through DR aggregators such as KiWi Power, hospitals are now reducing their energy consumption from the grid at peak demand times while getting paid by National Grid. In this way, hospitals are earning significant recurring revenue streams, gaining visibility into their real-time energy use, improving resilience testing regimes as part of their emergency preparedness and decreasing their carbon footprints.

Source UPS appoints David Gould as business development manager

Fri, 02/01/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

UK Uninterruptible Power Supply specialist Source UPS has announced the appointment of David Gould to the role of Business Development Manager.

Mr Gould has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry and has worked for several top-tier UPS power supply distributors, including seven years with Bell Micro (now Avnet Technologies) as APC product manager.

His expertise is in handling large UPS and data centre projects and working with some of the most recognised brands and corporations in the world. Reporting to managing director, Gavin Banks, Mr Gould will be responsible for developing new business with three-phase UPS systems, IT racks and precision cooling solutions in the server room and small data centre markets.

In 2012, Source UPS became a Tripp Lite Critical Application Partner (CAP).

Eaton 9PX and 9SX UPS units receive EMEA Energy Star certification

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 17:36 -- Ruth Williams

Eaton has announced Energy Star certification of its 9PX and 9SX UPS units available in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).


Energy Star, a joint programme established by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, is intended to help consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. In a statement, Eaton said its 9PX and 9SX UPSs earned the Energy Star following stringent third-party testing and verification of meeting the programme’s energy efficiency requirements.

The certification guarantees that Eaton products are among the top 25% of most efficient UPSs on the market and allow customers to effectively reduce electrical usage and their carbon footprint.

The Eaton 9PX and 9SX UPSs were launched in EMEA in 2012 and are the next generation of energy efficient devices for 5 to 11 kVA applications.


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