FOCUS on POWER
The new breed of diesel generators
The diesel generator is the mainstay of most standby power systems, not just in data centers. It is a mature technology with a hundred years or so of development behind it but Phil Thane finds it faces some modern challenges
Following the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 things have begun to improve for the data center industry. Smaller operaters are also getting back on their feet. And where there are data centers there are UPSs and generators.
But the diesel engine faces some new economic, environmental and energy-related challenges over the coming decade - and each has an impact on the other.
People and legislators make
allowances for ‘emergency use’ but when a generator runs almost every day it needs to be quiet
We spoke with the manufacturing trade bodies the Electrical Generating Systems Association (EGSA) in the US and the Association of Manufacturers of Power Systems (AMPS) in the UK about how business has been in 2010 and how they see it shaping up this year.
EGSA’s technical advisor Herb Whittall says that data centers were one of the more promising markets for EGSA members during the recession. So it is no surprise that a survey of EGSA members carried in 2010 shows that 49% of generator manufacturers see data centers as their most important market. But Chris Evans, chief economist at
Figure 1: Two different views of E1 Dynamics’ NO-BREAK system
AMPS, was more reticent about the market. Evans said sales figures for generator sets for the first half of 2010 were down on the previous year - exact figures are still not known for the second half of 2010 but so far figures suggest only a slight recovery.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT Part of the reason could be that emissions from data center diesel engines are becoming an environmental concern. In the
last few years data centers have grown in size and even smaller operations have been re- fitted with more servers, so use more energy and need more standby generators.
In many regions this is happening at a time when the power utility is struggling to meet demand and brownouts and total blackouts are becoming more common. So the diesel engines that used to fire up a few times a year might now run every week or more.
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