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Extend your power lifecycle with Li-ion data center batteries

Backup system batteries are critical in any infrastructure. Developments in Li-ion technology can bring more power, lower TCO and a longer component lifespan.

IT infrastructure power supply and distribution systems can be complex and fragmented. Through power supply architecture simplification, admins can reduce power conversion times, reduce the power supply distance and footprint, improve space utilization and boost energy efficiency.

Data center batteries are key components to these power systems. Specifically, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries can provide key advantages in terms of the data center footprint, service life and improved ROI as the technology matures and adoptions continue to grow beyond 2020.

Inefficient power distribution and standard lead acid batteries can lead to wasted power and space, add further costs, and inhibit future growth. The versatility of Li-ion batteries is well established, and various industry sectors continue to use them in more demanding data centers.

For those organizations that plan to scale significantly in the foreseeable future, the best choice may be to base power requirements on Li-ion deployments to accommodate that growth.

Ensure future data center growth with Li-ion batteries

Valve regulated lead-acid (VRLA) and vented lead-acid batteries have been a long-standing staple in data center power systems. Though lead acid cells have been the standard for decades, Li-ion batteries have gained in adoptions due to a smaller footprint and higher efficiencies.

Battery deployments that incorporate Li-ion offer versatility, in addition to greater security and sustainability. Li-ion battery systems can quickly discharge large amounts of energy and recharge much faster than VRLA batteries. With a smaller footprint and a more responsive reserve energy source in place, IT teams can quickly counter any loss or reduction in power during critical processing periods.

In addition to reduced cooling costs due to higher temperature functionality, Li-ion batteries weigh 60%-70% less than VRLA versions. And a smaller Li-ion footprint in the data center translates to more floor space that can be dedicated to operations and management. In preparation, IT leaders should first verify that they can accommodate the differences in charging circuits and controls between Li-ion and VRLA technologies.

Finally, there continues to be a greater focus on renewable energy and sustainable practices with these data center batteries. Administrators can boost their green initiatives by balancing reliance on traditional power sources with Li-ion battery deployments.

A lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and an improved cost savings due to increased Li-ion power efficiency can then be passed onto customers and stakeholders, giving these companies an advantage over less energy-efficient competitors.

Meet power needs with Li-ion data center batteries

As organizations reconfigure power systems, they must weigh the energy advantages of Li-ion against installation, maintenance and operations costs.

Initial adoption costs can be substantial, but the life expectancy of a Li-ion battery is 15 years, as opposed to just five years for a VRLA version, which results in fewer battery refreshes. This also means more charge/discharge cycles without degrading battery quality.

When left dormant, all data center batteries leak certain amounts of energy. VRLA batteries demonstrate only 85% efficiency over longer periods of time. Once they reach 80% of original capacity, the remaining capacity quickly depreciates.

Li-ion versions exhibit a more gradual capacity loss and retain 99% efficiency, losing only 1% of energy after 24-hour storage. With a longer shelf life, they can go up to 18 months without a top-off charge. They also are quicker to charge, with an average charging time of about two hours.

Because versatility is a key quality to look for in data center power distribution setups, different lithium-based batteries offer important performance characteristics, depending on the use case.

An increasing number of companies rely on Li-ion batteries to compensate for long outages and to supplement their primary power supply. Power-dense sodium-ion batteries, which are similar to Li-ion batteries, can provide sufficient bursts of energy to run a data center during an outage and are useful for peak shaving and power utilization optimization.

A power-usage effectiveness rating lets IT teams better understand power requirements in terms of energy distribution, efficiency, sustainability and future needs. With this metric, teams can pinpoint the effects of a power failure or determine how long IT services can remain functional after a primary power outage and use it during the battery evaluation process to pinpoint what Li-ion type is best suited for their infrastructure.

Battery installation and selection considerations

Organizations should work with vendors to get an accurate price for battery upgrade costs. These quotes must include the cost of the data center batteries, but also any additional fees to switch out connectors and installation services; certain offerings aren't necessarily hot-swappable or 1:1 replacements for VRLA components. Depending on the size of the installation, there may be transportation fees and restrictions for the battery shipment.

IT admins must also confirm that the hardware with Li-ion batteries has the right protection circuits, as well as proper storage temperature and conditions, to reduce aging. Teams should also research if the facility requires any additional fire suppression or safety systems, as these batteries contain a flammable electrolyte mixture that can be hazardous if damaged or pressurized. Overcharge protection is essential to prevent short circuit fires or explosions.

With a longer lifecycle and overall lower TCO, the market for Li-ion batteries is expanding to find more suitable -- and beneficial -- configurations. Other types of Li-ion batteries include lithium iron phosphate, lithium-ion manganese oxide and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide.

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