Short UPS runtime, alternative energy storage and microgrid applications were the recurring themes at Critical Power Expo 2015 in Novi, MI, which I attended in September.

Several of the major players in the UPS market, along with some newcomers, presented on trends that are influencing end user decision making when it comes to UPS runtime and energy storage selection. From the level of participation and presentation topics, two things were very clear to me:

  • Shorter UPS runtime is at its highest acceptance level ever. Data center, health care, and industrial facility operators are becoming increasingly concerned with initial capital expenses, maintenance costs, footprint and reliability of their energy storage selection, thus looking for alternatives that will lead them to become more profitable, provide better service to their customers and operate at higher efficiencies.
  • Traditional lead-acid batteries are no longer the only energy storage choice for most mission critical applications. The energy storage market for UPS applications is becoming very competitive and quite exciting, with proven solutions like flywheels and yet-to-be-proven technologies like lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors commanding attention from end users and engineers.

Overall, I was very pleased to see more emphasis on non-battery energy storage solutions and more focus in solving real end user concerns. The mission critical industry has seen many improvements and innovations over the last few decades, and sometimes the adoption of new solutions can take time. However, I strongly believe we are in the midst of a true shift in focus when it comes to UPS energy storage choice and runtime requirements, and flywheels and other technologies are poised to take center stage in providing a more reliable, efficient and cost-effective solution.