Power Distribution and Management

Industrial UPS vs. Generator: Are both needed for critical backup power?

As power disruptions seem to become more common, industrial organizations need to protect themselves by minimizing unplanned outages. So should they turn to a generator or an industrial uninterruptible power supply (UPS)? In many cases, the answer is both.

By delivering both industrial UPSs and generators, electrical contractors can provide customers with a comprehensive backup power plan to enable business continuity. For the most part, customers are familiar with backup generators – a common sight in various environments, including hospitals, manufacturing factories, construction sites, and wastewater treatment plants, and others. Yet, they may not be as familiar with the benefits of an industrial UPS.

industrial UPS

Power Outage Scenarios with a Generator

When the power goes out, an automated transfer switch or Buildings Management System activates the generator. In most cases, it takes sub 10 seconds to make the switch, and without a UPS to deliver uninterrupted power, a lot can happen in that short amount of time.

Before the emergency power comes on in a hospital, a surgeon in an operating room can lose visibility for a few seconds, which is potentially dangerous. The switchover to generator power is also just long enough to force MRI machines and other medical equipment to reboot, a process that can take 10 or 15 minutes.

On a factory floor, equipment shuts down before a generator starts, forcing motors, drive systems, conveyor belts, and other machinery to recycle. In some environments, the rebooting process can take hours. In production environments for food and beverage or life sciences, entire batches of products have to be discarded because deviances from the production process may cause contamination.

Power outages also create havoc with microprocessor chip manufacturing, which involves a combination of mechanical and chemical processes. When an outage occurs, the chips in production cannot be finished once power is restored. Instead, they have to be discarded so the whole process of manufacturing a chip can start again.

So while generators are crucial in all of these environments, they alone cannot prevent power interruptions that potentially cause two serious issues:

  1. Life-and-death situations, as in the case of hospital equipment
  2. Monetary losses caused by interruptions to production processes and discarded products

An industrial UPS addresses these issues by providing a stop-gap between the unplanned power outage and when a generator can come online.

Industrial UPS Provides Immediate Reliable Power

UPS systems do not replace generators. Instead, they offer a necessary complement to backup generators by keeping the power on until the generator boots. Both provide backup resilience, with industrial UPSs delivering short-term protection and generators longer-term backup power.

While often viewed as a power backup, UPS also delivers reliability. Consider that at least 80% of UPS installations are used for power conditioning to handle sags, dips, surges, and swells in electrical currents from the grid. Maintaining a steady voltage and current helps protect equipment by preventing unnecessary shutoffs and other issues that lead to extra maintenance and overall shorter lifecycles.

Data centers, which in many cases support industrial environments, are a perfect example of the need for steady power. Even a power loss of less than a second – a blink of an eye – can lead to shutting down IT equipment and its support infrastructure for a period of time. The miniaturized components amplify the risk in newer systems, servers, and networking equipment that can falter more easily than earlier-generation equipment did.

3-phase Industrial UPS: More Critical than Ever

An uninterruptable power supply, therefore, ensures the business operation, improves equipment performance, reduces maintenance requirements, and extends lifecycles. The UPS is especially critical now as factories and other industrial environments undergo digital transformation to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies.

New automated and digital systems are being deployed in industrial environments, facilitating a convergence of operational technology (OT) and IT. This means that in addition to protecting mechanical assets, industrial organizations also have to protect the digital control systems that support their operations.

Having generators in place is an obvious requirement in many or certain industrial operations, but it isn’t enough. To prevent costly, lengthy interruptions of industrial processes, organizations need to invest in robust industrial UPS systems that improve productivity, efficiency, and resilience. Learn more about industrial UPS options and how they can bolster your business continuity efforts.


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