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The Power of Lithium Ion Batteries in the Modern Data Center

Peter Panfil •

The impact of Lithium Ion batteries (LIB) onto our daily lives has been nothing short of staggering. This seemingly ubiquitous element can be found inside billions of devices, from handheld electronics to full-size automobiles.

It’s not much of a surprise that the driving forces behind this movement can be traced to our appetite for smaller and longer-lasting devices.

But are these performance parameters enough to drive usage within the very demanding data center market? Can LIB effectively compete against the lead acid batteries? What kind of tradeoff might exist in a cost vs. benefit analysis? And finally, are there safety concerns for data centers, similar to a few of the consumer electronic devices?

Our evaluation begins by looking at the good old VRLA (valve regulated lead acid) battery, which has been the data center industry’s mainstay source for shorter run backup power. As many of us know, these power plants can have numerous disadvantages, such as in weight, size, lifespan and maintenance. They are known to be the weak link within the power chain.

Respectively, Lithium Ion batteries offer key advantages over VRLA. LIB can pack more energy into a smaller space, thus saving footprint. They last significantly longer, so they do not need to be replaced as often. And, most can tolerate higher operating temperatures while also requiring slightly less maintenance.

Meanwhile, anyone pricing a lithium Ion battery plant knows that the initial capital cost is higher, currently on the order of 1.5 to 2 times higher. But as in any TCO analysis, once more data points are considered, the picture can look a little more comfortable. Operational savings kick-in by requiring somewhat less service and maintenance. Then there is less floor space and even reduced cooling costs to help narrow the gap more. Most importantly, the longer lifespan reduces replacement costs and brings with it a likely payback within 5-7 years. So for those taking a little longer term view, the returns can be promising.

As to safety, the first thing to realize is that Lithium Ion batteries for data centers are NOT manufactured the same way as those for small electronics. Suppliers of LIB for data centers custom design and deliver heavy-duty, strong and encased batteries that have undergone significant testing. The LIB used here are a derivative of the automotive industry, where safety is paramount.

Which brings us to a key question, what real-world experience exists with integrating LIB into a UPS system supporting critical data centers? You might be surprised to learn that we have been testing, deploying and supporting Lithium Ion battery solutions since 2011. While our Asia Pacific team has been a leader in this initiative, our North America region also has installed systems with both colocation and enterprise customers. Each has witnessed significant hours of successful runtime without concerns.

So, in this never-stand-still tech industry in which we live, LIB will rightfully receive more and more attention in the months and years ahead. As our data center and telecom customers research, evaluate and test the power of Lithium Ion batteries within their facilities, they can rest assured our expertise and experience is ready to help them each step of the way.

Keep watching our Lithium Ion Battery page for more details.

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