17 Dec 2021

Load bank testing and commissioning: The key to data center performance

Load bank testing and commissioning
 

Across the world, commercial data centers are in greater demand than ever before. At a time when data storage was already growing rapidly, the advent of a global pandemic and enforced remote working has further accelerated the move to cloud computing for many organizations.

The United States data center market alone was valued at $8.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $13.91 billion by 2026. A CBRE report found that in just the first half of 2021, cloud service providers brought over 214 megawatts of new wholesale colocation supply online - up 7% from the year before.

As this demand continues to grow, data center operators will be under increasing pressure to build new facilities and expand existing ones. But they must ensure that no corners are cut in this process. Load bank testing and commissioning are critical elements that are key to the success of any such project. Fail to carry them out properly and operators will face downtime, capacity issues, inefficiencies, and potential fines. All of which have significant financial implications.

So what are the best practices to follow to ensure a new data center is set up for success from the start?

Carry out testing and commissioning as early as possible

Why leave such a critical step so late in your construction project? By building in testing and commissioning as early as the design review of a new facility or expansion issues can be identified early and rectified. Not only will this avoid costly last-minute infrastructure changes, but it will also prevent delays to the completion date which often come at significant expense. Why wait until the last minute to find that your data center generator doesn’t have enough capacity when it could have been checked much sooner?

5 key testing levels

For a new data center to be commissioned successfully, there are 5 levels of testing that must be completed:

 

Level 1 - Factory acceptance testing

Equipment should be tested prior to delivery and both before and after assembly. This ensures it matches the design specifications and meets standards for quality, safety, functionality, and compliance. Having to send back incorrect or faulty equipment after it arrives at your facility simply adds unnecessary delays to your project.

Level 2 - Site acceptance testing

Similar testing to Level 1 should be carried out once the equipment reaches your facility to confirm specifications and check there has been no damage in transit. At this point, there should also be full load-test documentation for quality auditing purposes.

Level 3 - Pre-functional testing

At this stage, the functionality of the equipment is verified to confirm it has been correctly installed prior to the initial switch on. This is normally carried out by the installing contractor and an OEM technician. It’s absolutely critical that no equipment is powered up until these tests are complete.

Level 4 - Individual system testing

Once powered up, each separate piece of equipment is tested individually to confirm that it is operating as intended. This ensures that as well as being correctly installed, each system is capable of handling the loads that it is designed for.

Level 5 - Integrated system testing

The final stage, once all equipment is confirmed to be operating correctly on its own, is to verify that everything works together as designed. A generator load test will verify you have the necessary power to support everything. Various simulations should be run to ensure the data center can cope with different loads, equipment or power failure, changing environmental conditions, and any other potential risk factors.

Benefits of thorough testing and commissioning

So those are the steps to follow to set your data center up for success. But what exactly does success mean?

First of all, downtime will be minimal as the testing has confirmed the equipment can handle multiple scenarios. And by optimizing your power and cooling infrastructure your equipment will be kept operating as long as possible with the minimum operating and maintenance costs. The testing process will have identified any potential safety issues and eliminated them before you enter production, and the extensive documentation from load tests will allow you to measure the impact of any future changes and make informed decisions about necessary maintenance and expansions.

The bottom line? All these benefits will reduce overall costs and increase profitability. Not to mention enhancing your reputation as a leading data center operator.

Partner with Aggreko

No matter how large or complex your data center is, Aggreko has the experience and expertise to carry out the necessary load bank testing and commissioning and support your facility through its entire lifecycle. 

We have the most extensive range of testing equipment in the market as well as established global, standardized testing frameworks. With our worldwide presence, we can look after all your testing and commissioning needs and ensure your data center is always as efficient and profitable as possible.

To find out more, check out our ebook or get in touch with Aggreko today.

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