Tuesday, 19 August 2014

London Mayor's Warning Sparks DRUPS Concerns

London Mayor Boris Johnson took the opportunity to write a letter to the Sunday Times a few weeks back to warn of potential power problems in Britain's capital.  Johnson's warning suggested that the power in London could be compromised in the coming years if nothing is done to improve infrastructure and generating capacity.  The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) seems to agree, at least where generation capacity is concerned, leading to additional questions regarding DRUPS units.

Diesel rotary uninterruptible power supply (DRUPS) units are what most data centres, hospitals and other mission-critical institutions use as backup power supplies in the event of a brownouts or blackouts, however, even as energy demand increases, some wonder whether DRUPS technology is the right way to deal with power outages or not.  It is technology with its own flaws, including the consumption of fossil fuels.

If a diesel-powered generator is to work properly, it needs clean fuel that burns at maximum energy producing capacity.  Yet the nature of diesel fuel is such that problems can arise very quickly.  If diesel fuel is exposed to moisture, for example, that could cause huge problems for generators - this is especially true where biodiesel is concerned.  Biodiesel is prone to certain types of bacterial growth if not completely sealed against moisture.

For the time being, experts are saying that data centres and others using diesel generators should make sure that they have a fuel maintenance programme in place.  Good fuel maintenance includes inspection, cleaning, polishing and stabilisation.  A fuel maintenance programme ensures generators will always run reliably when the need arises.  In the meantime, we also need to start looking at other ways to generate backup power for the future.

The Tremendous Need


The consensus between OFGEM and Johnson's office is that the power demand in London will double in the next 35 years yet even the best projections say generating capacity next year will only be 2% above peak demand.  There is no way capacity will keep up with a doubling demand if nothing changes and such a scenario would likely devolve into rolling brownouts or complete blackouts in the future.

So, what is to blame for the increased demand?  Most of it can be laid squarely at the feet of Internet technology, specifically cloud computing and virtualisation.  The advancements in digital networking have given rise to faster data transfer speeds, more computing power and ever-more efficient Internet servers.  Nevertheless, it all comes at a cost and that cost is increased power demand to make it all work.

It is clear that Internet technology is only going to consume more power as we move ahead.  Moreover, with London being a world leader in such technology, it will be no surprise if demand does increase as dramatically as the experts are saying therefore we need to start taking action now to make sure generating capacity can meet our needs 35, 70 and 100 years from now.



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