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Achieving Higher Reliability and Uptime with Flywheels

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 10:27am
Erik Brumbaugh, VYCON (www.vyconenergy.com)
Erik BrumbaughAs the newly appointed director of enterprise accounts for VYCON, I’m very excited to be part of the accelerated growth in the IT marketplace and the always-on-anywhere environment. Virtualization, cloud computing, advanced server technology, mobile apps and the like all have one thing in common: they need to be highly available and the foundation of this availability is power. Despite the “cool factor” of the latest apps and the exponential efficiencies that cloud computing gives us, these digital systems still require 24x7 uptime no matter what. While power protection doesn’t grab headlines – power outages do. Data center managers at Google, Mozilla, Citibank and others take power availability very seriously. And right they should – they likely can tell you the financial impact to their organizations, precisely to the dollar, of an outage. For most transaction-based organizations, even a power outage for a few seconds can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost transactions – not to mention good will.

At VYCON, our flywheel systems bring a higher level of power reliability to data centers, healthcare facilities, industrial plants and even casinos – anywhere power must be constant – the “always on-anywhere environment.” Just imagine that you’re one number away from winning the jackpot and the power goes out? Thanks to ingenious engineering and patented technology, VYCON’s flywheels give data center and facility managers the ability to increase power uptime while reducing their carbon footprint. The neat thing about flywheels is that they can work alongside or replace lead-acid batteries used with uninterruptible power systems (UPSs). This is significant as batteries are notoriously unreliable, require frequent maintenance and replacement, need lots of floor space and need to be cooled. Flywheels reduce this physical footprint as well as the organization’s carbon footprint – how’s that for an efficient story? As C-level executives continually look for ways to increase production and the bottom line, the power infrastructure is a great place to look at to gain important operational efficiencies while lowering carbon footprint and overall costs.

A great example of this is showcased at EasyStreet Online Services, Inc. – a cloud, managed services and colocation provider that has designed a new state-of-the-art data center that needed to be as “green” as possible. To meet this requirement, they have integrated wind energy and flywheels as part of their power infrastructure. Through careful planning and implementation of energy smart technologies and systems, EasyStreet estimates that it will be able to save 1,532,634 kilowatts a year – enough energy to power 153 average households.

Power reliability was of course their first priority and this is why they chose VYCON flywheels as part of their power backup plan. EasyStreet has three VYCON VDC-XEs running in parallel with double-conversion UPS systems. If there’s a power outage, the 300 kilowatt flywheel systems act as a bridge that seamlessly transfers to the facility’s diesel-engine generators. With the flywheels, EasyStreet is realizing significant space savings over batteries. A battery plant is approximately three times the size of a comparable-sized flywheel. EasyStreet’s Jon Crowhurst, director of technical services recently commented, “As a colo, space is a precious commodity. More space we have the more we can accommodate our customer’s servers and other computing assets. Having thirty minutes or half an hour of batteries is, in my opinion, pointless. If the generator doesn’t start in the first thirty seconds, there’s nothing you can do. If you had two generator mechanics with their tools in hand, standing next to the generator and said, “I need this fixed in fourteen minutes,” they’d both laugh at you, because there’s nothing that can be done to diagnose or repair a problem with the generator in the time allowed. A well maintained generator plant doesn’t need fifteen minutes of batteries.”

For those who don’t have generators – that’s okay as the flywheel works well with batteries acting as the first line of defense against power glitches, helping to preserve the batteries for when outages last more than seconds. Interestingly, according to EPRI “batteries are the primary field failure problem with UPS systems.” The VYCON flywheel has a 20-year life – not bad when you consider batteries have to be replaced every 4-5 years and can cost nearly four times that of flywheels over 15 years. And, this doesn’t include the cost for floor space or cooling. As EasyStreet’s new data center becomes more populated and energy demands increase, Crowhurst will add more UPSs and VYCON flywheels. “The end stage is three UPSs with eighteen flywheels total,” envisions Crowhurst. “Reliability, sustainability and having a low carbon footprint are part of the ethos of our company. This vision with actual energy savings allows us to save money which translates to saving our customers money – it’s a great win-win.”

I’m looking forward to working with today’s data center and facility managers in helping them plan and enhance their power infrastructures so we can all enjoy those exciting applications…Now, where did I put my smart phone – oh, never mind there’s an app for that…
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