Shipping containers used to house UPS systems are not new. Over the years, the military have taken advantage of a self-contained, purpose-built, secure source of power protection that could easily be delivered onto the side of a mountain if necessary! However, we are now also starting to see the demand for containerised UPS systems pop-up more and more and in facilities from hospitals to dock yards to airports.
These days, containers can be used both inside and outside buildings to rapidly deploy self-contained mini datacentres which can be added to as required and so offer many advantages for a variety of facilities.
Where space is a premium, a purpose-built shipping container can provide a complete customised solution. The key point is that no planning permission is necessary, and installation can occur particularly quickly: normally installation can be completed in around a month, but it can be less than a week if necessary!
Containers are secure structures which can easily be fenced off. They can be painted to blend in with the surroundings (camouflaged in the case of the military!), or alternatively, wrapped with company logos and branding to stand-out.
Even with modification, containers are significantly cheaper to purchase than to develop a brand-new building to house the required equipment. They do need air-conditioning due to the tight space, however, often not as much as a heated building. Where building space is limited, they can offer the ideal solution.
Containers offer a robust and solid temporary structure. Siting the container close to the area which requires back up power is usually straightforward and reduces the cost of cabling. They can also be a great option to extend a comms room or put a facility in a remote or awkward location.
Equipment can be installed prior to the container being craned into position, however because most UPS are so small and light these days, installation after the container has been delivered avoids the need to bold kit down for safe transport.
Modification of the container is necessary. They need to be insulated, boarded and set onto concrete foundations, usually slightly raised to remove the risk of flooding. They need to be lined and finished to prevent condensation. However, this has advantages too, a white melamine finish creates an environment similar to a clean room, which adds to the longevity of the equipment being housed.
Bespoke design for the battery racks optimising the configuration for ease of access and maintenance of both the UPS and batteries is usually required. Maximising the use of the floor to ceiling space to create a workable area, ensuring there is enough room to allow for the rest of the equipment including DC isolation, bypass panel, UPS distribution panel and building management service (BMS) which all need to be accessed readily for maintenance is important. The shipping container also needs to have room for air conditioning units plus emergency lighting if necessary.
As well as the advantages outlined, containerised UPS enable a pay as you grow approach. Instead of high investment in additional real estate, it is possible only to invest in what is required. Containers can be used like Lego blocks to expand as required. They offer a customisable, cost effective and rapid deployment of power protection. For the edge datacentres of the future, it is likely they will become a popular option for organisations looking to house data close to the source.
Originally featured in Tomorrow’s FM Magazine October 2020.