Sabio Case Study

Just how do you keep your IT systems powered to support a 24/7 operation within a listed building?

This was the question that Sabio, a Glasgow-based specialist contact centre and systems integrator posed to Linnet Technology, who project managed the refurbishment of their offices in Glasgow. Tontine House in Gordon Street, central Glasgow was built in 1854. Its city-centre location, ‘A’ listed building status (for national historic and architectural importance) and lack of external development space presented Linnet with several challenges. These included how to provide uninterruptible power to their IT infrastructure. Sabio had an existing Riello UPS located within their comms room and were originally considering the installation of another traditional UPS system. Linnet sized their additional requirements at 3kVA but for this further system Sabio requested a non-standard back-up runtime of 12 hours. This would allow their IT operations to run ‘Off-The-Grid’ for up to half a day, should the mains power fail.

The solution put forward by Linnet was their award winning AurigaGen fuel cell powered system. This would overcome all of the site’s restrictions and still meet the specification for a break-free, long runtime back-up power solution. The hydrogen fuelled system was also ideal because it could be safely installed within an area that was to be used for personnel lockers and was only separated from the main office by a partition. The AurigaGen system comprises of the fuel cell, an intelligent controller, inverter (DC/AC) and small battery pack to cover the fuel cell start-up period (20 seconds). The system is ‘emissions free’, with a low audible noise output and compact size. Hydrogen is required to power the fuel cell and this is connected through secure piping – from either canisters or a locally generated supply.

Long-term the AurigaGen system also offers a significantly lower total cost of ownership than a generator or UPS battery-based system in terms of maintenance costs and overall working life. Generators typically require a twice-yearly maintenance visit, while batteries require replacement around year four from installation, if not sooner. The AurigaGen system was installed within a server rack cabinet and a hydrogen containment cabinet was installed on the opposite wall. Both the cabinets were installed with monitoring sensors, integrated with the building fire alarm system. When mains power is present, the inverter has a pass-through facility allowing mains power to support the load. The load is protected from any spikes and electrical noise present in the mains supply by filters within the inverter.

When the mains power supply fails or goes outside tolerance (under sags, surges or brownouts conditions), the inverter draws power from the battery supply. At the same time a hydrogen valve opens and the fuel cell is activated. As soon as the fuel cell is up to operational voltage (within 20 seconds) the inverter automatically transfers from the battery supply to the output of the fuel cell. When mains power is restored, the inverter returns to the pass-through mode, the hydrogen valve is closed, the fuel cell powers itself down and the small battery is recharged. The entire process provides a continuous and ‘break-free’ supply to the IT load and mimics operation of a traditional battery supported uninterruptible power supply. The fuel cell is powered from hydrogen supplied in industry standard cylinders. The cylinders are stored in a separate concrete-lined metal cabinet which also houses safety values and hydrogen monitors. This acts as a containment system to protect the canisters from tampering and mishap within the environment. Overhead piping connects the hydrogen cabinet to the AurigaGen, as well as to the venting system. The cylinders are rented and replaced as part of a separate fuelling contract. The entire installation fully complies with the prerequisite health & safety guidelines for storing and usage of hydrogen within a building.

“We are extremely proud of this installation and the challenges tackled by the Linnet team. The AurigaGen system at Sabio provides a blue-print for city-centre based clients who cannot use traditional UPS systems or generators for long runtime applications. It’s also extremely eco-friendly with zero emissions and so ticks the box when it comes to meeting environmental and energy policies.”

Jean Laughlin, Managing Director of Linnet Technology