What’s Up UPS?

The world of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems is not only witnessing a host of new technologies but is also undergoing many new marketing developments. The following is only a small sample of what's happening in the world of UPS. Flywheel UPS Much has been written about battery-free, flywheel-driven UPS in the last few years.

By Staff June 1, 2004

The world of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems is not only witnessing a host of new technologies but is also undergoing many new marketing developments. The following is only a small sample of what’s happening in the world of UPS.

Flywheel UPS

Much has been written about battery-free, flywheel-driven UPS in the last few years. And flywheel UPS vendors continue to introduce technical innovations and to break new marketing ground.

Austin, Texas-based Active Power announced last August the introduction of a line of mid-range UPS, in the 65-kVA to 130-kVA range. Advanced options on these models include voltage regulation, transient protection and harmonics cancellation.

In April of this year, Active announced the selection of its flywheel-based UPS by Eurotel Praha, spol. s.r.o., the largest provider of wireless voice and data services in the Czech Republic. This was through a local distributor of Caterpillar , which markets the Active Power UPS under its own brand name, Cat UPS.

But Active Power isn’t the only flywheel UPS manufacturer that’s making inroads in Europe. Pentadyne Corporation , Chatsworth, Calif., has signed a distribution agreement with EUS GmbH, Dortmund, Germany, to deliver two of its flywheel UPS systems to be used in conjunction with microturbine applications.

Air and Power

But while flywheel technology is a hot topic, it’s not the only thing happening in the UPS world. If one looks at the bigger picture, especially mission-critical technology as a whole, some long-time UPS vendors are introducing new innovations that go beyond the UPS technology to provide for all the critical needs of a data-center facility.

American Power Conversion Corp. (APC), W. Kingston, R.I., has been focusing for the last few years on overcoming the cooling challenges in mission-critical facilities. InfraStruXure is a completely modular, pre-engineered approach to power, cooling and storage rack space. The rack has become the focal point of IT, with thinner and deeper “blade” servers with much higher power loads—and heat—per sq. ft.

The newest configurations in APC’s line of modular power, rack and air arrangements is focusing on optimal cooling distribution and heat exhaust. At the same time, they are maintaining their concern for optimal cable management and power distribution. In addition, monitoring of power and environment at the racks means better control, which spells less downtime.

One key innovation in the APC system is the air-removal unit. The ARU optimizes heat removal from densely configured racks by concentrating heat into one channel and removing it in raised-floor and non-raised-floor environments alike.

But what about inside the UPS systems themselves? New internal technology is another important development on the news front for these systems.

Web Enabled and Fuel Cells

MGE UPS Systems , Costa Mesa, Calif., has announced several enhancements to its product line. One new offering from the company is the EPS8000 UPS, a model that features built-in web server capabilities in models from 555 kVA to 800 kVA. The system incorporates triple redundant power sources (line, load and battery) as well as fault tolerant circuitry to ensure that fan failure will not compromise UPS operation.

What’s more, these unit offer a small footprint. They fits into a space 121 in. wide

The built-in web-server, SNMP or Modbus options enable seamless monitoring in virtually any environment. In fact, with no additional computer connection, the embedded web-server chip enables detailed UPS monitoring from anywhere in the world. It offers one of the highest power densities available in this class of UPS at 23 kW per sq. ft., while the integrated isolation transformer and input filter eliminate the need for bulky auxiliary cabinets. Users can access all EPS8000 components from the front of the cabinet with no rear access required, reducing footprint requirements even further by allowing installation in any unused corner.

This configuration also allows users to take advantage of yet another innovation from the company: a monitoring program that enables a worldwide service department to monitor the UPS installation 7×24 and immediately dispatch field engineers if necessary.

The monitoring system gives users access to their UPS systems’ power status via a secure website that is also monitored continuously by MGE staff. Not only does this offer users a real-time view of their critical power from any remote location with web access, it also assures that status is viewed at a diagnostic level by the same people that directly dispatch factory service engineers from 170 service centers worldwide. The service offers flexible options for power monitoring using any available communications connection—Ethernet, phone line or cellular modem.

The service provides the user immediate notification of specified event alarms along with the peace of mind knowing they can access detailed system information from anywhere. At the same time, 24-hour monitoring includes remote diagnostic capabilities that assure the fastest possible repair response by giving field engineers a comprehensive look at systems before they leave the service center. In some cases, the diagnostics provide sufficient information to eliminate the need for a service call entirely. Parameters monitored include system input and output data, connection information, system configuration, event logs and alerts.

But what’s even bigger news from MGE is that the company has introduced a fuel-cell powered online UPS for mission-critical facilities requiring long duration backup power. The Pulsar EX RT features an extended runtime option using fuel cell modules from Ballard Power Systems . Based on MGE’s proven double-conversion online technology, the new rack systems offer power protection optimized for high-density IT applications and servers. The 3,200-VA fuel-cell powered UPS models can provide backup times of four to 24 hours or more, as long as hydrogen fuel is supplied.

Hydrogen, which is contained in replaceable cylinders, is piped directly to the fuel cell module. Like a battery, the fuel cell module produces DC voltage that is then bussed to the UPS. Scaleable fuel cell modules are ideally suited to meet the needs of the UPS and telecom markets, where the limitations of batteries including inadequate run times and excess weight and floor space requirements have long presented difficulties for applications requiring backup times in excess of one hour.

“We’re very excited to incorporate Ballard’s innovative Nexa RM Series into our new online Pulsar EX RT which marks our second generation of fuel cell powered UPSs,” stated Jack Pouchet, director of marketing for MGE. “Our first fuel cell powered UPS incorporated line-interactive technology. Our latest solution is one of the most robust double-conversion UPSs on the market today providing true on-line Digital Power Quality for application servers, VoIP and storage networks that require this higher level of power quality. And now with the capability to incorporate fuel cell technology, users have virtually unlimited backup time for mission-critical telecommunications and network applications as well. The damaging affects of extended power outages on business continuity will soon become a thing of the past.” (For an article on interfacing UPS with gensets and a primer on UPS topology, go to www.csemag.com and click on the green Electrical button on the left.)