Organizations like Open Compute Project (OCP) and Open19 have created open standards for alternatives to conventional server designs. These architectures redefine how power is converted and distributed within an IT rack. Centralized rack-level power supply units (PSU) replace internal server power supplies. 12V has been the standard output for power supplies, but recently we’re seeing 48V, with claims of much higher overall efficiency.

Why 48V? It comes down to the quest for improved compute performance, which requires increasing the power to the chip, and at 12V, this isn’t practical. I’ll explain why in another blog.

Efficiency: A Compare and Contrast Story

We thought it was important to research this topic to understand the expected efficiencies from the PSU to the server point of load (the components within the servers). We created a model to illustrate the differences between the architectures, show the main drivers of the electrical losses, and see how varying parameters like redundancy of PSUs, oversizing of PSUs, and component efficiencies can impact the resulting overall efficiency.

Try the Rack Power Architecture Efficiency Calculator in our Tradeoff Tool Library.

The calculator allows you to analyze the power path efficiency of the different architectures, starting from the input power of the rack (PSU input), down to the voltage regulator modules (VRM) within the servers that deliver power to the individual server components. Specifically, we looked at comparing conventional servers (PSUs within each server) and centralized rack-level PSUs, both 12V & 48V DC approaches.

 Rack Power Architecture Efficiency CalculatorWith the default settings in our tool, the efficiency of the 12V rack level PSU architecture is 7 percentage points better than conventional servers (or 33% reduction in losses), and 48V is just over 1 percentage point better than 12V rack-level (7% reduction in losses).

So where does the efficiency improvement come from?

  • Redundancy – Centralizing PSUs to the rack allows for N+1 redundancy to be achieved for each rack, meaning there is one extra PSU per rack of servers (i.e. 5+1) rather than one extra for every server (1+1) which is typical for conventional servers. This reduction in power converting components increases the overall efficiency of the system.
  • Oversizing – Conventional PSUs tend to have an oversizing factor between 2x and 3x, whereas a consolidated rack-level PSU will have less oversizing (we assume 1.2).
  • More efficient components – The most common grade of PSU used in data centers is 80 Plus Silver standard, which has a max efficiency of 88%. In comparison, data shows 94% and 95% max efficiencies for 12V and 48V rack-level PSUs, respectively (based on data from General Electric). There is also likely to be an efficiency improvement in the VRM when the conversion occurs at 48V instead of 12V.

Findings from the Expert

Here are what I believe the key takeaways are from this analysis:

  • Rack-level architectures do show significant improvement in efficiency over conventional servers, primarily due to the reduction in oversizing of the PSUs (both from less redundancy “overhead” and consolidation of server PSUs).
  • 48V direct current is a likely bet for the future, not for the incremental efficiency improvement over 12V direct current, but because of the need for increased compute and density.

What do you think? Do you agree with our findings? Will 48V become the future voltage for consolidated power supplies in these OCP-style architectures?

Try Out the Calculator

I encourage you to try the power efficiency tool for yourself. See how sensitive each parameter is to the overall result (move the load levels around, adjust the capacity) and understand just where the efficiency curves fall.

“Journey of a thousand miles begins with a Single Step”, however, sometimes taking that first very step seems daunting,  especially, when you are venturing into a completely different phase of Life. ‘ Campus to Corporate’, our Grand Induction program is designed to smoothen the Transition of our Graduate Engineer Trainees form College life to a Professional realm. Want to know more about our endeavour, read the blog from Akanksha where she retrospects and elucidates different elements of Campus to Corporate program 2017.

The Offer Letter

I still remember the date, it was 23rd September 2016, I came back to my hostel at 11 pm, with the offer letter in my hand. I don’t recall being that happy anytime in my life earlier. It was one of those times when I cried out of happiness. Tears of Happiness because it brought along a sense of achievement. It was ‘my achievement’, my efforts had paid off.

Campus to Corporate

Note to our Parents

A memory which I would cherish forever is the extraordinary way in which Schneider Electric engaged our parents. I got a call from my Dad informing me how they had received a fabulous letter card from Schneider Electric’s leaders, along with a badge, making them proud parents of a student who were entering Schneider and appreciating the pivotal role our parents played in our lives. The regular engagement reflected the Great Culture of the organization we were set to join.

The Interactions

I had reached the venue alone, however, there were few colleagues accompanied by their parents. Every eye I met, was gleaming with excitement.

Leaders started addressing parents of the students and we were pleased as this was something beyond our imagination. We never thought that our parents would be tendered to so well.

In the evening, before dinner, there was an ice-breaker session which was organized to ensure that we get comfy in the new atmosphere and develop a rapport with other colleagues.

Week 1 – The On boarding and Induction

The first week was filled with Leaders of Schneider Electric coming forth to share their views, their experiences, their learnings and more. They also apprised us about the different verticals that make up SE.

We had Industrial visits on the last two days of the week, here we learnt how the basics and concepts were being used in real life.

Icing on the Cake – Visit to Play Arena

The objective of this activity was to develop camaraderie and foster team work. We had the Mystery Box, Paint ball, Laser tag, rock climbing, archery and more.

Though the impending activities like rock climbing seemed daunting, however, we somehow scaled up the heights; lesson learnt – irrespective of the complexity of the task, you must go ‘all-in’. And thus, with a superb fun and frolic, the week one came to an end.

Campus to Corporate 

Week 2 – Behavioral Training

The next week was about the Etiquette Training. The batch was divided into 2 sub-batches. Our facilitators were full of life. Some of the key areas which were focused upon were – how to talk, how to dress up, which category of a person we fall into, what are the table manners, the code of conduct for being a successful professional, including many other things.

Campus to Corporate

The Gala Night

Campus to Corporate concluded with Bollywood Retro themed Gala Night. We started with performances such as dance, drama, stand-up comedy, singing and more. We all danced like crazy in the Flash Mob. And I must tell, nobody parties like Schneider Electric.

There was a special DJ performance from Vice President, Schneider Digital – Arindam Sen and Director, Schneider Digital – Sourindra Maity. The music was a treat to our feet, we just kept tapping to the beats.

Today, after 10 months of being in the Schneider Electric Family, when I sat down to write this, I could find myself smiling ear to ear. It was nostalgic to travel back the memory lane; these memories have been etched on our hearts forever.

I can proudly state that for me ‘Life is On’ at Schneider Electric.

At Schneider Electric, you have heard us talk at length about the energy paradox: world energy use has increased by 50% over the last 25 years, and yet two million people on our planet still lack access to reliable electricity. Add to that the forecast that energy demand will increase by almost another 50% by 2050[1]. In addition, we know that 85% of CO2 emissions are linked to energy use[2] and that industries use one third of worldwide energy[3]. And we know that there will be a gap of 40% between the supply of, and the demand for, clean water by 2030[4].

The result is that we must cut emissions in half to avoid significant and irreversible damage to our planet. We must both decrease our carbon intensity and improve our efficiency by a factor of three if we are to avoid a climate and energy catastrophe. 

There is no doubt that the easiest, cheapest, fastest, and most profitable way to embrace green energy is to save energy and to consume it smarter. A huge untapped potential for energy savings exists in so many industries and we can get to it through innovation and bold ideas. Technologies are available now that can help alleviate the negative impact on our environment.

Industrial companies can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%

It is estimated that overall, a whopping two thirds of efficiency potential remains untapped – this is over 80% in the buildings sector, 78% in the infrastructure sector, and 60% in the industrial sector.

How can industrial companies tap into this hidden potential?

Simply, they must begin to transition from “producing more” to “producing better.”

Through digitization and the IIoT, we can discover so many different capabilities and possibilities to meet sustainability requirements. Overall, an industrial company could expect that, with the right automation, power, and plant optimization solutions in place, they could reduce energy consumption/costs by up to 30%. Good for business, good for the planet, right?

In the first part of this blog I’d like to look at some of the key strategies that can be applied to your industrial operations that can help achieve this. In the second part of the blog I’ll discuss some other business areas where digitization can be applied to help meet sustainability goals.

 Visibility for sustainability

The digital transformation of industries means everything is connected. This connection facilitates company-wide visibility of real-time consumption. And if we know what we are consuming, and where the energy is being wasted, we can address it. This visualization is essential for industries, not only for energy use and waste but for other inputs, as well, to be able to increase profitability while protecting the environment. A system architecture that allows each employee, from the operator to the plant manager, to actually see what is happening and take real-time action whenever it is needed from wherever they are in the business – we can do that now. For example, the convergence of power data into the context of process data to provide real time information on either energy consumption in the context of process optimization (we change the process and look at the impact on the energy data), or information on process usage based on energy optimization (we change the energy usage and we look at the impact on the process performance), will help to find the most efficient process set up with the most efficient energy use while also considering the profitability of the system.

Augmented operators are more sustainable

Augmented operators – workers who are equipped with mobile devices, data analytics, augmented reality, and transparent connectivity to increase productivity, and operate and manage a plant in real time – are, in and of themselves, contributing to the sustainability of an industrial enterprise. The digital transformation of industries gives plant personnel this arsenal of tools so they can identify errors and maintenance requirements more precisely and then send the right person, with the right tools, at the right time and to the right place when human intervention is needed. The augmented operator can also draw on the expertise of other experts, remotely, using these digital tools, thus optimizing travel and displacement costs to benefit both the business and the environment. 

Syncing design and production to be more sustainable

With technologies like digital twin and simulation packages, industrial companies can promote more collaboration between product design and production functions like materials, production processes and, more extensively, in the plant’s operations, as well. By leveraging real-time data to mirror the physical world in a virtual model (which can include products, machines, and human beings), operators can test and optimize the set points for a machine before the physical changeover for the next run. This drives down machine setup times, increases quality by saving start-up and idle energy, reduces material waste, and allows product design and manufacturing to be adjusted to take into consideration different sustainability parameters or requirements.

Sustainability built in at every level of the plant

Finally, I’d like to touch on building sustainability into the very design of your plant, starting with

the intrinsic efficiency of products and devices that make up your operations like:

  • PLCs that are designed to produce faster while using the same amount of energy and a higher volume of I/O
  • Drives and PLCs that can be updated, and some maintenance actions can be implemented, without stopping the full process – saving a lot of energy at restart
  • HMIs and PLCs that include a Stop/Start functionality that saves energy
  • Pushbuttons and beacons that are designed with lower energy consuming LED

Looking at the overall plant, process and enterprise, connected products mean information can be seen from the operations up to the enterprise levels. Actions resulting from this enhanced visibility can, in turn, improve the plant’s energy consumption. We consider this “active” energy efficiency. It can be closed loop, for example with PLCs or MES linked to an ERP system that implements business rules around sustainability, or open loop, by measuring consumption and tying it to specific operator behaviors that can be optimized, or even to machines that are less efficient than others and may require maintenance.

In addition, the use of Ethernet everywhere facilitates the transparency of energy consumption by individual devices, including sensors, contactors, drives, PAC, DCS, HMI, etc. For example, variable speed drives with algorithms and built-in intelligence can not only minimize the consumption of energy, but also put that intelligence to work to adapt an operation so the drive functions at its best efficiency point (BEP).

Industry and sustainability are no longer mutually exclusive. Nor can they afford to be. The technologies available today are already bringing the two closer together. In the next part of the blog, we’ll look at sustainability measures that can be applied to supply chains, product design, and building management.

To find out more about sustainability at Schneider Electric, click here

To learn more about our industrial automation solutions, click here

[1] McKinsey Energy Outlook, 2016; IEA WEO 2016, Current Policy Scenario (Business as Usual)

[2] IEA 2013

[3] IEA 2014

[4] KMPG 2012

For panel builders, understanding how to build an electrical power distribution system is important. As noted in the introductory article, this can be done by following IEC 61439 or an appropriate local standard as well as component manufacturer specific instructions about assembly and derating, along with using the correct grade and type of conductor.

It is important to adhere to the standard and manufacturer instructions and to test for compliance to them. Doing so ensures performance will be acceptable for the life of the installation, thanks to built-in operating margins.

Panel builders can achieve this using flat busbars that are custom crafted. IEC 61439 provides tables that set bar size depending on the current load for a given ambient temperature. Pursuing customization places the entire burden of calculation and compliance testing directly on the panel builder.

An alternative is to use pre-fabricated busbars and components. These are validated by the manufacturer, with the main tests proving compliance to the standard already done. Pre-fabricated solutions eliminate any costs or delays associated with certification, thereby saving panel builders time and money.

Ideally, a pre-fabricated power distribution solution should include several different types of components because this gives the greatest flexibility in an installation. Busbars, for instance, should be available in a compact comb busbars configuration to ensure proper connections are always made.

Another part of a pre-fabricated solution should be a device feeder that allows maximum flexibility to balance phases and quickly repartition connection points while still offering a completely tested and inexpensive option. Distribution blocks should also be available because these are compact and have cabling capacity for dozens of connection points.

An electrical panel should also include flat or profiled busbars according to the need (e.g., IP, In, Icc Surface treatment for specific environment, etc.).  If you use a prefabricated system, it is easy to find all the components you need for your electrical distribution.

Our Linergy line of products including: comb busbars, distribution blocks, device feeders, and power busbars,  are fully code compliant, flexible and integrated, see Figure 1.

Figure 1

For more information, visit our low-voltage switchbaord solutionspageand download our free eGuide. Also, be sure to register for our dedicated panel builder resource center.