There’s a world’s largest of everything. With a quick Google search, you can find out the World’s largest mountain; the world’s deepest ocean and the world’s tallest tree, and with a bit more delving you’ll no doubt find the world’s biggest television, longest bread and widest cat. If you were to do a similar search for the world’s largest uninterruptible power supply (UPS), you’d find likely find one located in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is a whopping 46-megawatts. This Battery Electric Storage System (BESS), in the event of a power cut, can power the entire district for up to seven minutes, which, according to the experts, is enough time for the back-up diesel generators to be activated and for power to be restored.
The point of all UPS’s is to provide a constant supply of power when an outside force or internal glitch has rendered the normal power supply insufficient or completely absent. They kick in and take over until the problem is resolved and normal power can be resumed. Servers and medical machinery across the world rely on uninterruptible power supplies to keep them going in the event of a power cut; as do important military installations and even nuclear power stations. This is imperative as otherwise important work would be lost; important kidneys would stop working or even deadly nuclear fallout could occur.
So, why not use a UPS for an entire town’s power? On the face of it, this seems like a slightly ludicrous idea. In practice, it works rather well. When in most other towns and cities, a power cut means just that – suddenly the power that we rely on so completely just comes to an end and everything else comes to a standstill with it – Fairbanks’, will just keep on going thanks to its monster UPS. This system is very similar to those in the offices, hospitals and nuclear power stations mentioned earlier; only in Fairbanks the batteries are stacked on the shelves of a large warehouse, and everybody benefits from the power of this resident UPS.
As an application of taking something relatively small, enlarging it to do the job of hundreds or even thousands of its normal sized counterparts, Fairbanks’ Uninterruptible Power Supply works as well as could ever have been imagined. It might also be something other towns and cities across the world consider in the future, as natural disasters, terrorist attacks and system failures all contribute to the potential for mass power failure.