The Co-operative Banking Group in the United Kingdom is part of The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest consumer co-operative. The bank maintains a data center in Stockport, Manchester. The bank recently decided to ditch its battery powered Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and replace it with a system powered by compressed air.
Pnu Power’s Air-DRUPS system uses scroll generators that are powered by compressed air to generate electricity. The Air-DRUPS system provides a few seconds of backup power until the backup generator starts to work.
Pnu Power designed the compressed air batteries, which were chosen by Socomec, the company that powers the bank’s UPS systems. DC Environmental Services installed the compressed air system.
Initially, compressed air systems are more expensive to install than lead acid batteries, but they require less maintenance than batteries. In general, compressed air systems only require an annual inspection.
“The initial capital outlay is comparable to similar UPS systems although higher than those using batteries but the total cost over the lifetime of the product is much lower, making it highly attractive,” said Martyn Hulme, managing director for Co-operative Estates.
Other advantages of compressed air energy storage include low toxicity, lack of hydrogen venting, higher reliability and predictable costs and runtime.
The battery structure operates on a compressed air supply that is regulated by an airflow controller. The power train, consisting of a scroll expander, generator and converter actually generates electricity. Standby losses are less than 100 watts and are confined to the operation of control electronics.
The runtime of a UPS is just a few minutes, but it’s generally enough to give data centers time to get a generator online.
In addition to powering data centers in the event of an outage or a voltage drop, UPS systems are often used in telecommunications, industrial processes and power switching applications. Pnu Power’s compressed air solution is compatible with both UK and U.S. power grids.
EA Technology Group is an international distributor for Pnu Power. Neil Davies, the company’s international director, pointed to the example of last year’s earthquake in Japan as a sober reminder that UPS systems are needed for critical operations.
“The failure of cooling systems in Japan’s nuclear plants is a dramatic reminder of the need for reliable and robust backup solutions in a wide range of industries,” said Davies.
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey