For more than 10 years, Power Partners has delivered a variety of power protection solutions for mission-critical applications, including the burgeoning data centre industry in Singapore. Despite the relatively staid nature of electrical engineering, however, Paul Randall, the technical director of Power Partners feels there is ample room for improvement in terms of enhancing reliability, going green, and reducing costs.
Doing power well
While it is tempting to mistake Power Partners as an equipment vendor, Randall was quick to point out that Power Partner can integrate a full range of equipment into a cohesive solution based on the specific needs of a customer. One aspect that sets Power Partners apart from the “big equipment makers” is how Power Partners is well-versed in integration, he says.
“We integrate the equipment into the building, which might include the fabrication of an appropriate enclosure, the actual installation, and hoisting the hardware into place. We do have our own range of products, but we also collaborate with the industry to address specific requirements.”
One example of this integration ability would be supercapacitor/lithium-ion static uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Randall says the UPS that Power Partners offers can integrate with the ATS and genset, thus ensuring the load is always protected.
Being a traditional dynamic rotary UPS provider in Singapore, Power Partners has recently ventured into supercapacitor technology and gas generator to meet customers’ demands.
That’s not all, however. The use of supercapacitors and the tight integration with the genset provides a buffer to ensure that consecutive power outages and the associated voltage dip (coup de fouet effect) experienced by traditional batteries don’t bring the lithium-ion cells below the UPS low level DC. Which would be disastrous and can culminate due to multiple outages with a short autonomy UPS.
“We provide a whole power train from the grid to the racks. Though we are an equipment vendor, we have the capability to integrate lots of equipment as part of a solution to supply power to the data hall downstream. This is important with owner-furnished equipment on the upward trend. As such, we don’t see ourselves as a contractor, but as an equipment specialist,” said Randall.
An eye on green
Aside from reliability, going green is another topic that weighs heavily on Randall, who believes that a switch to natural gas in the data centre can alleviate pollution. The rationale is simple: Why settle for diesel backup generators when a natural gas power plant offers a significantly lower greenhouse gas emission that is at least 30 percent lower? 1
“The cost of operating a natural gas generator is similar to that of a diesel generator. However, natural gas is the perfect fuel for regional Southeast Asia countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which has an abundance of this resource,” said Randall.
It is hence no accident that Power Partners offers the entire ecosystem to support a natural gas power plant, from the natural gas gensets themselves to the requisite equipment to handle and store natural gas. He said: “We can compress and liquefy natural gas for easier handling. We can store the fuel in a liquified natural gas (LNG) storage tank.”
Innovating with power
Randall sees the opportunity to both enhance reliability and reduce cost through the use of new technologies and innovative designs. His organisation’s integration of its lithium-ion UPS and genset is one such example of the former, though Randall also suggests alternate methods of deployments that turns convention on its head.
Pointing out that the gensets of a data centre are left “doing nothing” outside of a power outage, Randall posited using them as the primary power source in parallel with the power grid. This reduces energy cost with no impact on reliability, and excess capacity can also be sold back to the grid to further reduce the running cost.
Of course, this can only be effective with natural gas. But because the gas generators that Power Partners sell are combined heat and power (CHP) power plants, exhaust/engine heat from the generator is automatically put into a heat exchanger and absorption chiller to generate chilled water. This can be piped back into the data centre for cooling, lowering power consumption at no extra cost.
For this to work, the design must be sound, says Randall. “Your design has to be resilient. You must consider all different scenarios, from short circuits, leaking pipes to unstable utility power.” He acknowledged that there are mental barriers to be overcome, too: “Like it or not, it is a very human trait that everyone is waiting for one of their peers to be the ‘first one’.”
With the expertise from parent company Air Water Inc, a traditional industrial gas manufacturer since 1929, both Air Water Inc and Power Partners can provide a full suite of turnkey solutions for gas, water, and power to mission critical facilities.
Though Power Partners has long focused its attention on the Singapore market, it is now setting its eyes on a larger stage after its acquisition by Air Water Inc, Japan. With a vision for growth in the region, Power Partners is currently in the process of establishing offices in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.
“We see that many data centre operators are investing in other parts of Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Thailand. Vietnam is worth paying attention to, too, given its large and youthful population,” said Randall. “With the trade war between the U.S. and China, we are seeing companies divert their factories over to Vietnam. We all know that when manufacturing is established somewhere, information technology – and new data centres – will inevitably follow.”
Elsewhere, the growing trend towards data locality is doubtlessly another factor that will drive the construction of new data centres in the region. Moreover, the region is also rapidly modernising, and both governments and commercial organisations are deploying a wide array of smart equipment. And as organisations turn to artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing to power these systems, the demand for data centres can only increase.
“You need data centres that are local to support applications such as AI and IoT. Data centres are here to stay. The only question is the scale of each facility: Will it be big or small? The digital economy is here to stay, and data centres are a vital component of this new economy.”