If You Have a Microgrid, Do You Need a UPS?

May 10, 2023
Dean Richards of Piller USA shares his thoughts on backup power, power conditioning, and the future of microgrids.

Dean Richards, president and CEO of Piller USA, recognizes that it’s a bold statement for a UPS company to question whether microgrids will eliminate the need for uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). But he did just that in a recent interview with Elisa Wood, editor-in-chief of Microgrid Knowledge.

The two sat down as a lead up to Microgrid 2023: Lights On! to discuss the future of microgrids.

Large-scale power demands large-scale microgrids

For more than 100 years, Piller has been manufacturing UPS and power conditioning stabilization technology. It is also active in the microgrid space.

Richards said that one of the biggest trends his company has noticed is that many microgrids are getting bigger. He pointed specifically to the data center space as an example.

“Data center operators are largely focused on cost and speed to market," Richards said.

They’re also power hungry.

Richards said the big five hyperscale entities are talking about building campuses that will need a gigawatt of power and “that’s extremely difficult for that to be coming from the grid and from the utilities.”

He expects that this type of demand will drive the use of cogeneration, or combined heat and power as it’s also called, to create this power.

Reliability is key

Reliable power is key for data centers, which must meet the service level agreements they’ve established with their clients. And this, Richards said, is why microgrids are becoming increasingly important to this mission-critical segment of the economy.

And this brings us back to that bold statement about the future of UPS technology.

Richards explained that data centers currently have standby backup generation. If the utility power is cut, a UPS acts as a bridge until that backup generation is operational; it typically takes between eight and twelve seconds to get the generators running, synced and providing proper voltage regulation, he said.

But a microgrid provides a seamless transition between the grid and the microgrid, so do you even need a UPS at that point?

“This is quite an interesting discussion for me,” Richards said. “It's a bold statement coming from Piller to say if you have on-site primary power generation then you don't really need a UPS in its traditional form.”

What you do need, Richards said, is power conditioning and stabilizing technology to make sure frequency and voltage performance of your solar, wind, natural gas or other generation source all stage properly for these mission-critical applications.

A microgrid is a living entity

One of the things Richards loves about microgrids is that they evolve. “A microgrid doesn’t just stay the same. It needs to be able to move as the technology advances to either grow or be easily scaled” as the power demand or the campus needs grow.

He noted that he expects these large-scale microgrids will be built so that they’re ready for the next fuel source.

“A key focus will be using natural gas equipment that can then become hydrogen ready or a newer green technology fuel instead of that natural gas,” he said.

Learn more about microgrids at Microgrid 2023: Lights On!, which will be held May 16-17 in Anaheim, California. Piller USA will participate in a panel called How Modular, Hybrid, Renewable Microgrids Fulfill the Global Need for Green Power.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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