What is UPS?
Uninterruptible Power Supply / Uninterruptible Power Source is very well known as UPS is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries, supercapacitors, or flywheels. A UPS is typically used to protect hardware such as computers, data centers, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, serious business disruption or data loss. UPS units range in size from units designed to protect a single computer without a video monitor to large units powering entire data centers or buildings. The world’s largest UPS, the 46-megawatt Battery Electric Storage System (BESS), in Fairbanks, Alaska, powers the entire city and nearby rural communities during outages. The primary role of any UPS is to provide short-term power when the input power source fails. However, most UPS units are also capable in varying degrees of correcting common utility power problems:
Voltage spike or sustained overvoltage
Momentary or sustained reduction in input voltage
Noise, defined as a high frequency transient or oscillation, usually injected into the line by nearby equipment
Instability of the mains frequency
Harmonic distortion, defined as a departure from the ideal sinusoidal waveform expected on the line
Some manufacturers of UPS units categorize their products in accordance with the number of power-related problems they address.
The three general categories of modern UPS systems are on-line, line-interactive and standby.An on-line UPS uses a “double conversion” method of accepting AC input, rectifying to DC for passing through the rechargeable battery, then inverting back to 120 V/230 V AC for powering the protected equipment. A line-interactive UPS maintains the inverter in line and redirects the battery’s DC current path from the normal charging mode to supplying current when power is lost. In a standby (“off-line”) system the load is powered directly by the input power and the backup power circuitry is only invoked when the utility power fails. Most UPS below 1 kVA are of the line-interactive or standby variety which are usually less expensive. For large power units, Dynamic Uninterruptible Power Supplies (DUPS) are sometimes used. A synchronous motor/alternator is connected on the mains via a choke. Energy is stored in a flywheel. When the mains power fails, an eddy-current regulation maintains the power on the load as long as the flywheel’s energy is not exhausted. DUPS are sometimes combined or integrated with a diesel generator that is turned on after a brief delay, forming a diesel rotary uninterruptible power supply (DRUPS). A fuel cell UPS has been developed in recent years using hydrogen and a fuel cell as a power source, potentially providing long run times in a small space. The offline/standby UPS (SPS) offers only the most basic features, providing surge protection and battery backup. The protected equipment is normally connected directly to incoming utility power. When the incoming voltage falls below or rises above a predetermined level the SPS turns on its internal DC-AC inverter circuitry, which is powered from an internal storage battery. The UPS then mechanically switches the connected equipment on to its DC-AC inverter output. The switchover time can be as long as 25 milliseconds depending on the amount of time it takes the standby UPS to detect the lost utility voltage. The UPS will be designed to power certain equipment, such as a personal computer, without any objectionable dip or brownout to that device. The line-interactive UPS is similar in operation to a standby UPS, but with the addition of a multi-tap variable-voltage autotransformer. This is a special type of transformer that can add or subtract powered coils of wire, thereby increasing or decreasing the magnetic field and the output voltage of the transformer. This may also be performed by a buck–boost transformer which is distinct from an autotransformer, since the former may be wired to provide galvanic isolation.This type of UPS is able to tolerate continuous undervoltage brownouts and overvoltage surges without consuming the limited reserve battery power. It instead compensates by automatically selecting different power taps on the autotransformer. Depending on the design, changing the autotransformer tap can cause a very brief output power disruption,which may cause UPSs equipped with a power-loss alarm to “chirp” for a moment. This has become popular even in the cheapest UPSs because it takes advantage of components already included. The main 50/60 Hz transformer used to convert between line voltage and battery voltage needs to provide two slightly different turns ratios: One to convert the battery output voltage to line voltage, and a second one to convert the line voltage to a slightly higher battery charging voltage. The difference between the two voltages is because charging a battery requires a delta voltage. Furthermore, it is easier to do the switching on the line-voltage side of the transformer because of the lower currents on that side. To gain the buck/boost feature, all that is required is two separate switches so that the AC input can be connected to one of the two primary taps, while the load is connected to the other, thus using the main transformer’s primary windings as an autotransformer. The battery can still be charged while “bucking” an overvoltage, but while “boosting” an undervoltage, the transformer output is too low to charge the batteries. Autotransformers can be engineered to cover a wide range of varying input voltages, but this requires more taps and increases complexity, and expense of the UPS. It is common for the autotransformer to cover a range only from about 90 V to 140 V for 120 V power, and then switch to battery if the voltage goes much higher or lower than that range. In low-voltage conditions the UPS will use more current than normal so it may need a higher current circuit than a normal device. For example, to power a 1000-W device at 120 V, the UPS will draw 8.33 A. If a brownout occurs and the voltage drops to 100 V, the UPS will draw 10 A to compensate. This also works in reverse, so that in an overvoltage condition, the UPS will need less current. In an online UPS, the batteries are always connected to the inverter, so that no power transfer switches are necessary. When power loss occurs, the rectifier simply drops out of the circuit and the batteries keep the power steady and unchanged. When power is restored, the rectifier resumes carrying most of the load and begins charging the batteries, though the charging current may be limited to prevent the high-power rectifier from overheating the batteries and boiling off the electrolyte.
The main advantage of an on-line UPS is its ability to provide an “electrical firewall” between the incoming utility power and sensitive electronic equipment. The online UPS is ideal for environments where electrical isolation is necessary or for equipment that is very sensitive to power fluctuations. Although it was at one time reserved for very large installations of 10 kW or more, advances in technology have now permitted it to be available as a common consumer device, supplying 500 W or less. The initial cost of the online UPS may be higher, but its total cost of ownership is generally lower due to longer battery life. The online UPS may be necessary when the power environment is “noisy”, when utility power sags, outages and other anomalies are frequent, when protection of sensitive IT equipment loads is required, or when operation from an extended-run backup generator is necessary. A UPS designed for powering DC equipment is very similar to an online UPS, except that it does not need an output inverter. Also, if the UPS’s battery voltage is matched with the voltage the device needs, the device’s power supply will not be needed either. Since one or more power conversion steps are eliminated, this increases efficiency and run time. Many systems used in telecommunications use an extra-low voltage “common battery” 48 V DC power, because it has less restrictive safety regulations, such as being installed in conduit and junction boxes. DC has typically been the dominant power source for telecommunications, and AC has typically been the dominant source for computers and servers. There has been much experimentation with 48 V DC power for computer servers, in the hope of reducing the likelihood of failure and the cost of equipment. However, to supply the same amount of power, the current would be higher than an equivalent 115 V or 230 V circuit; greater current requires larger conductors, or more energy lost as heat. A laptop computer is a classic example of a PC with a DC UPS built in. A rotary UPS uses the inertia of a high-mass spinning flywheel (flywheel energy storage) to provide short-term ride-through in the event of power loss. The flywheel also acts as a buffer against power spikes and sags, since such short-term power events are not able to appreciably affect the rotational speed of the high-mass flywheel. It is also one of the oldest designs, predating vacuum tubes and integrated circuits. It can be considered to be on line since it spins continuously under normal conditions. However, unlike a battery-based UPS, flywheel-based UPS systems typically provide 10 to 20 seconds of protection before the flywheel has slowed and power output stops. It is traditionally used in conjunction with standby generators, providing backup power only for the brief period of time the engine needs to start running and stabilize its output. The rotary UPS is generally reserved for applications needing more than 10,000 W of protection, to justify the expense and benefit from the advantages rotary UPS systems bring. A larger flywheel or multiple flywheels operating in parallel will increase the reserve running time or capacity. Because the flywheels are a mechanical power source, it is not necessary to use an electric motor or generator as an intermediary between it and a diesel engine designed to provide emergency power. By using a transmission gearbox, the rotational inertia of the flywheel can be used to directly start up a diesel engine, and once running, the diesel engine can be used to directly spin the flywheel. Multiple flywheels can likewise be connected in parallel through mechanical countershafts, without the need for separate motors and generators for each flywheel. They are normally designed to provide very high current output compared to a purely electronic UPS, and are better able to provide inrush current for inductive loads such as motor startup or compressor loads, as well as medical MRI and cath lab equipment. It is also able to tolerate short-circuit conditions up to 17 times larger than an electronic UPS, permitting one device to blow a fuse and fail while other devices still continue to be powered from the rotary UPS.
Its life cycle is usually far greater than a purely electronic UPS, up to 30 years or more. But they do require periodic downtime for mechanical maintenance, such as ball bearing replacement. In larger systems redundancy of the system ensures the availability of processes during this maintenance. Battery-based designs do not require downtime if the batteries can be hot-swapped, which is usually the case for larger units. Newer rotary units use technologies such as magnetic bearings and air-evacuated enclosures to increase standby efficiency and reduce maintenance to very low levels. Typically, the high-mass flywheel is used in conjunction with a motor-generator system. These units can be configured as:
A motor driving a mechanically connected generator,
A combined synchronous motor and generator wound in alternating slots of a single rotor and stator,
A hybrid rotary UPS, designed similar to an online UPS, except that it uses the flywheel in place of batteries. The rectifier drives a motor to spin the flywheel, while a generator uses the flywheel to power the inverter.
In case No. 3 the motor generator can be synchronous/synchronous or induction/synchronous. The motor side of the unit in case Nos. 2 and 3 can be driven directly by an AC power source, a 6-step double-conversion motor drive, or a 6-pulse inverter. Case No. 1 uses an integrated flywheel as a short-term energy source instead of batteries to allow time for external, electrically coupled gensets to start and be brought online. Case Nos. 2 and 3 can use batteries or a free-standing electrically coupled flywheel as the short-term energy source. A problem in the combination of a double-conversion UPS and a generator is the voltage distortion created by the UPS. The input of a double-conversion UPS is essentially a big rectifier. The current drawn by the UPS is non-sinusoidal. This can cause the voltage from the AC mains or a generator to also become non-sinusoidal. The voltage distortion then can cause problems in all electrical equipment connected to that power source, including the UPS itself. It will also cause more power to be lost in the wiring supplying power to the UPS due to the spikes in current flow. This level of “noise” is measured as a percentage of “total harmonic distortion of the current” (THDI). Classic UPS rectifiers have a THDI level of around 25%–30%. To reduce voltage distortion, this requires heavier mains wiring or generators more than twice as large as the UPS.