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Why BESS is Better than Traditional UPS for Hospitals





Power resilience is more important in healthcare than any other sector. While elsewhere, power disruption can cause huge disruption in terms of lost productivity, data, raw materials and time, for healthcare providers a loss of power poses an immediate threat to the lives of the people under their care. For this reason, the healthcare sector is one of the most established when it comes to the use of power resilience technologies. However, that isn’t to say there isn’t room for improvement. 

How do hospitals ensure emergency power? 

For decades, hospitals have relied on two main forms of technology to ensure their critical care is not affected in the event that their grid supply is disrupted. Primarily, lead acid uninterruptible power supply is used to provide instantaneous emergency power in the event of power disruption. Frequently, periods of disruption are very short, just a few seconds or less in duration, and a UPS is able to keep critical equipment functioning as normal until grid supply is resumed. 

For longer disruptions, some businesses use UPS to buy them the time to shut down equipment safely and in good order, without risking damage, loss of data or product. However, this isn’t an option for healthcare providers. Instead, investment in longer term backup power is required, which typically takes the form of diesel generators. 

Why is there an issue with existing UPS? 

Both traditional UPS and diesel generators have a well-established track record for providing reliable alternative power in the event of disruption. If that was the only criteria that needed to be considered, the case for swapping them out for entirely new technology could be a difficult one to make.  

The reality, however, is that power resilience is just one aspect of the growing energy trilemma that all organisations, including healthcare providers, face. The energy crisis has brought one, the issue of energy cost, into stark relief. The British Medical Journal reported in 2022 that some NHS trusts were planning around up to a 200% increase in energy costs, with some facing an increase of upwards of £2 million per month. At the same time, the NHS has a strict net zero target in place, which individual trusts are expected to progress towards despite already tight budgets stretched thinner by the energy crisis.  

Traditional UPS risks undermining both of these other energy management priorities. The energy losses inherent with this technology significantly increase overall energy costs, while higher consumption also increases associated Scope 2 emissions in turn.  

How does BESS solve the problem? 

While it is important to bear in mind that not all BESS are approved for use with the NHS, or able to provide the same instantaneous emergency power as a UPS, the ones that meet these criteria are an increasingly popular alternative.  

Compared to a UPS, the energy losses of a BESS are minimal at less than 1%. While BESS are typically more expensive to purchase upfront, the greater energy costs associated with a UPS means that they rapidly reach price parity, often within just two years. Over the equipment’s lifetime, which is around 10-15 years in the case of UPS but often up to 25 years for BESS, higher energy costs mean that the typical project will have cost several times as much as an equivalent BESS. This is particularly pronounced when a BESS is used to generate new revenue streams by engaging with grid balancing services. 

For longer periods of disruption, solving these with a BESS becomes more complex, However, it is entirely possible, and as growing numbers of hospitals invest in other energy infrastructure technologies such as on-site generation or EV charging, actually becomes a more practical way of energy management across a site. This is by establishing a smart microgrid, which uses intelligent data management to balance energy flows and maximise energy efficiency. When grid disruption is experienced, a combination of energy storage and on-site generation can be used to keep a site operational, indefinitely in many cases, until grid power is restored. 

Find out more about how Powerstar supports the healthcare sector here


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