Paul Brickman, Group Commercial Director at Crestchic Loadbanks, explores the role of load banks as we move through 2023. His discussion centres around the importance of load bank technology in the energy and data centres sector and their role in the coming months.
An increasing reliance on power, combined with the ongoing energy transition and current energy crisis, has resulted in increased demand for backup power generators. As industry and society as a whole become more averse to the risks of power outages, the generator market is predicted to grow from around US$13.53 billion in 2021 to US$16.90 billion in 2027. As the demand for backup power intensifies, so too does the need for load banks – an essential piece of testing kit that plays a crucial role in ensuring safe, reliable power across many industries.
What is a load bank?
Wherever there is standby power, there is also a need for a load bank – a device that is used to create an electrical load that imitates the operational or ‘real’ load that a generator would use under operational conditions – ensuring optimal operation.
A load bank can be used for a variety of applications, whether testing a diesel generator as a standby power supply, verifying the condition of a battery or UPS, or applying a full load to keep equipment running at its optimum efficiency. In short, the load bank is used to test, support, or protect a critical backup power source and ensure that it is fit for purpose in the event that it is called upon.
Increased reliance on power
According to the International Energy Agency, global electricity demand grew by almost 6% in 2021, driven by growing global populations, increasing digitalisation and a greater focus on sustainability. The growth is showing no signs of abating, with McKinsey predicting that power consumption will triple by 2050 as electrification and living standards grow.
As a result, organisations across all sectors are increasing their reliance on a secure, constant power supply to keep operations flowing as expected. However, just as with any engine, maintenance is key to ensuring that generators will start when required – making it vital that anyone investing in a generator also explores the purchase or hire of a load bank.
Efforts to address climate change are leading to increased electrification across industry, the transport network and beyond. This uptick in demand for power is coupled with the need to generate power from renewable sources – resulting in a rapidly changing energy landscape. The rollout of renewable power sources such as wind and solar brings with it ongoing investment in the power generation mix, as well as a renewed focus on how power systems are designed and operated.
When harnessing natural sources of power, which are reliant on the wind blowing and the sun shining, managing a stable and constant supply can be challenging. For this reason, there is an increased need for backup power options, grid balancing solutions and better-connected grids. This often involves the use of generators, which are used to increase or decrease generation, correct frequency deviations and balance supply to demand. Often a stopgap measure, generators are typically installed to run as standalone alternatives to the grid to provide an alternative power source during grid outages. Yet, while their role as a reliable backup power source can keep consumers from being plunged into darkness, businesses from downtime and hospitals from being unable to power vital equipment, generators are only a reliable source if properly maintained – and the only way to do that is to use a load bank.
The energy crisis
In the midst of the energy transition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had far-reaching impacts on the global energy system, disrupting supply and demand patterns and impacting trading relationships. As well as causing a prolonged shortage of power (most notably in Europe) the crisis has also seen energy prices rise, impacting households, industries and entire economies.
Where shortages threaten, governments may be forced to enact load-shedding strategies – a term used to describe the prioritisation of power allocation to hospitals and critical infrastructure. For businesses, this prioritisation process may mean being without power for periods of time – impacting productivity and profitability. For this reason, many businesses are investing in backup power, ensuring that they can keep operating in emergency conditions if power cuts are implemented. In France in particular, the government has been clear: businesses have been advised to make sure all emergency power generators are working, making load banks critical to meeting government recommendations.
A digital-first society
While the Digital Revolution has its roots in the 1960s and 70s, when technology started the transition from mechanical and analogue to digital, the pandemic fundamentally shifted the way we live and work, necessitating a move to ‘digital first’ almost overnight. A McKinsey study estimates that during the first eight weeks of the pandemic, digital channel adoption fast-forwarded seven years. As well as forcing companies to accelerate their digital strategy and adoption, this transition also reset expectations for customers, who now expect companies to offer an array of digital services and interactions – with 100% uptime.
To meet the challenges posed by an increasingly data-driven world, the data centre sector has experienced fast growth – with an anticipated 10.5% CAGR from 2021 to 2030. In a sector governed by strict SLAs and expectations of continuous uptime, the issue of downtime continues to dominate the sector. A report by the Uptime Institute (UI) at the end of 2022 identified that data centre outages were becoming increasingly costly – both in terms of downtime, reputational damage and lost data. Crucially, data from the UI showed that the biggest causes of power-related outages were uninterruptible power supply failures, followed by transfer switch (generator/grid) and generator failures – reinforcing that implementing a robust load bank testing regime is key to data centre uptime.
Customer SLAs and zero-downtime
Research from Zendesk suggests that 80% of customers say they’d switch to a competitor after more than one bad experience. With customers demanding a fast and efficient service, regardless of industry, businesses can’t afford operational inefficiency. In a world where zero-downtime is a critical part of business success, having access to reliable power supplies is non-negotiable – and will continue to entail the deployment of generators and load banks.
The role of loadbanks
The growth in demand for generators is a clear sign that businesses are reviewing their continuity and energy resilience plans. Load banks are a critical part of that planning – with issues around grid reliability, energy shortfalls and the transition to more sustainable power sources, it has never been more important that operators test their backup power systems. By carrying out testing and maintenance, fuel, exhaust, cooling systems and alternator insulation resistance are effectively tested and system issues can be uncovered in a safe, controlled manner without the cost of major failure or unplanned downtime.Click below to share this article