JV Industrial and Vycon team up to protect datacenter against power outages
Managing a data center’s power infrastructure is one of the highest priorities of data center and facility managers. Maintaining data center operations at high 9’s of availability requires diligence and high quality power systems to protect against even the smallest of power glitches. But when the electricity coming into a facility is bad to begin with, the stakes are much higher. The power protection equipment has to be up to the task to deal with very frequent voltage swings, brownouts and complete power breaks. Such is the case at JV Industrial, a specialty contracting company that offers the industrial process plant community a variety of services to build, refurbish, expand and manage plant assets.
Located in La Porte, Texas, just outside of Houston, JV Industrial is surrounded by industrial plants, oil refineries, a railroad and a shipping port. This location in itself is a challenge from a clean electrical power perspective – not to mention that a welding facility is part of the company’s four building campus; that can cause power quality problems including voltage fluctuations, harmonics and interharmonics. Moreover, being located on the gulf coast, hurricanes are a constant threat. Keeping the company’s data center free from power disturbances is the job of Dearl Avent, JV Industrial’s IT infrastructure manager. “Our data center not only supports our La Porte campus, but also our remote offices in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Jersey and several locations throughout Texas. Our data center must be up and available 24/7.” JV Industrial services include turnarounds of process plants, plant construction as well as fabrication and welding across the U.S.
In search of a better power solution
Avent had installed a line conditioner and a UPS to mitigate the power anomalies. However, the battery-based UPS was unable to keep up with the frequent power hits. “We had to keep replacing the UPS’s batteries. Every time they were cycled their life would diminish and if I lost one battery, the entire string went down.” Avent set out to find a more reliable and less maintenance-intensive solution. “I looked at batteries and flywheels to see if I could find a better solution.” In his search, Avent learned about Vycon’s flywheels and heard about their 20-year rated life. “I was replacing batteries every two years and the costs were mounting.” Every time a battery is used, it becomes less responsive to the next event. Batteries generate heat, and heat reduces battery life. If operated 10°F above their optimum setting of 75°F, the lifespan of lead-acid batteries is cut in half. If operated at colder temperatures, chemical reactions are slowed and performance is affected. Batteries can also release explosive gases that must be ventilated away. Hazmat permitting, acid leak containment, floor loading issues, slow recharge times, lead disposal compliance and transporting are important issues that have to be dealt with.
Figure 1. Cutaway of Vycon’s VDC flywheel components
A flywheel system typically replaces lead-acid batteries used with UPSs and works like a dynamic mechanical battery (Figure 1
) that stores energy kinetically by spinning a mass around an axis. Electrical input spins the flywheel rotor up to speed, and a standby charge keeps it spinning 24/7 until called upon to release the stored energy. (Figure 1
) The amount of energy available and its duration is proportional to its mass and the square of its revolution speed. In the flywheel world, doubling mass doubles energy capacity, but doubling rotational speed quadruples energy capacity:
k – Depends on the shape of the rotating mass
M – Mass of the flywheel
? – Angular velocity
During a power event, the flywheel (Figure 2) will provide backup power seamlessly and instantaneously. What’s nice is that it’s not ‘an either or’ situation as the flywheel can be used with or without batteries. When used with batteries, the flywheel is the first line of defense against damaging power glitches – the flywheel absorbs all the short duration discharges thereby reducing the number and frequency of discharges, which can shorten the life of the battery. Since UPS batteries are the weakest link in the power continuity scheme, flywheels paralleled with batteries give data center and facility managers peace of mind that their batteries are safeguarded against premature aging and unexpected failures. When the flywheel is used just with the UPS and no batteries, the system will provide instant power to the connected load exactly as it would do with a battery string. However, if the power event lasts long enough to be considered a “hard” outage (rather than just a transient outage), the flywheel will gracefully hand off to the facility’s engine-generator. It’s important to know that according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), 80 percent of all utility power anomalies/disturbances last less than two seconds and 98 percent last less than ten seconds. In the real world, the flywheel energy storage system has plenty of time for the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) to determine if the outage is more than a transient and to start the generator and safely manage the hand-off.Figure 2. Vycon’s VDC-XE flywheel system is the first line of defense against power problems