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When the main power supply to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus fails, each campus building has a battery in a large, black box that automatically kicks in, preventing power blips and outages — at least as long as the juice in the battery holds out. These batteries, or technically an electrical apparatus with a battery at the heart of the system, primarily are meant to protect computers and data centers from surges. They also provide power during short outages and, in longer outages, bridge the time until a generator can be activated. Many campus buildings do have generators.UPS at ITS Franklin

Longer-lasting batteries will be installed over several years

The battery life of these Uninterruptible Power Supply systems (UPS) at most University buildings runs 20 minutes to a half an hour. But this past July, Information Technology Services launched a multi-year project to purchase and install batteries that last longer—up to 90 minutes for locations with Tier 1 lines, which will keep connectivity to more buildings for longer, said Jim Gogan, Assistant Vice Chancellor for ITS Communication Technologies.

Taking a proactive approach

The project also entails replacing batteries toward the end of their expected functionality on an ongoing basis, instead of waiting until one starts malfunctioning.

For non-Tier 1 locations that have generators, having enough run time for that switchover to take place is sufficient, said Kelly Boley, ITS Communication Technologies Network Analyst. For non-generator locations, 15 to 20 minutes is the goal, he said.

System established two decades ago

The University has had this UPS system for about two decades. ITS received one-time funding to establish the system back then after a summer afternoon outage took out power in some 40 buildings. That surge blew out and required the replacement of more than 100 switches, at a significant cost.

Since then, ITS has upgraded the batteries sporadically—as needed and as end-of-year funds were available. Now, however, ITS will continually upgrade the UPS system as part of the ITS Communication Technology Funding Model for network core services. Funding made available in 2013 enables ITS to plan for the lifecycle refresh of campus network hardware.

Upgrading 400 units this year

ITS AVC Jim Gogan 6.26.15With predictable funding, ITS Communication Technologies was able to bid out a three-year contract for UPS, at a substantial savings. Communication Technologies placed its first order of about 60 UPS units, in July. The division will upgrade around 400 units this year and 300 next year, Gogan said. He expects to have all of the batteries replaced after four years.

The campus has about 1,300 UPS units, at a cost of around $1,800 each. Some 132 units are still using their original battery, meaning they have a run-time of perhaps only 30 seconds. Each new battery should last seven or eight years.




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