Lithium-ion: The technology poised to transform uninterruptible power
Fri 1 Jul 2016
Li-ion delivers the same amount of energy as VRLA batteries, whilst dramatically reducing footprint and cooling requirements, argues Matthew Baynes, Data Centre Development Director at Schneider Electric
With prolonged life expectancy, reduced footprint, efficient cooling requirements, lighter weight and smaller size, Li-ion batteries are fast becoming the key to changing UPS technology for data centres. It was only a matter of time until Li-ion reached the market for UPS, but how is this innovation driving the need for change?
Firstly Li-ion addresses the need to reduce the footprint of traditional UPS tech such as valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries, and secondly Li-ion rapidly reduces the maintenance requirements or need for regular battery replacement in large-scale UPS topologies.
Companies deploying modular or adaptable integrated data centre architectures can greatly benefit from Li-ion technology. This is primarily because with such architectures, IT racks, power and cooling components are built and tested as part of an integrated solution, in which capacity can be incrementally expanded as business requirements change over time.
Li-ion batteries enable integrated modular solutions to become even more space and energy-efficient. Whilst they deliver the same benefits associated with having the UPS and battery protection close to the IT load, a strategy which provides an enhanced level of reliability and protection from any potential upstream electrical issues, they are easily scalable, allowing the data centre to adopt a pay-as-you-grow solution with flexible operating modes for a wide range of applications.
We will continue to see the performance of Li-ion batteries improve, while costs are likely to reduce at a rapid pace.
In addition to reducing space and meeting energy requirements, Li-ion batteries provide a lifecycle, which can be up to twice as long than their VRLA counterparts. The technology requires less maintenance and is delivered with sophisticated, integrated advanced battery monitoring systems (BMS), providing the user with a simple, remote access point that delivers a reliable measure of UPS or ‘charge’ health.
Additionally, it also means that fewer people are required to visit the data centre facility to perform maintenance checks, which reduces the concerns raised through human element and can in some cases, mean an additional reduction in OPEX.
In short, the chemistry utilised within Li-ion batteries makes them far more predictable to manage, making for easier, more effective maintenance.
With lighter weight and more compact cells, Li-ion battery space requirements are a fraction of those needed for VRLA batteries. Essentially this provides a higher energy density, enabling an equivalent (or greater) runtime capability from a smaller space than traditional UPS battery systems. Li-ion batteries also generate less heat, which requires a lower investment in cooling or special battery rooms, and they won’t need replacing as regularly as VRLA batteries.
Put simply, large UPS systems utilising Li-ion batteries will provide all the benefits of static UPS technology whilst addressing all the disadvantages of traditional batteries, namely footprint, lifetime maintenance and cooling requirements.
Since we as an industry are at the early stages of adoption, the benefits only stand to increase. It is expected that we will continue to see the performance of Li-ion batteries improve, while costs are likely to reduce at a rapid pace. Meaning that the future requirements for high-powered, shorter backup times will likely be driven by lithium-ion UPS technology and the market for static UPSs in large data centre applications, will become more competitive than ever.