Comparing the Climate Impact of Batteries on Data Center Sustainability

March 9, 2021
ZincFive paper on nickel-zincs climate impact

To make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, data center operators need to take a look at the bigger picture.

In a prior blog post, we pointed out how lead-acid batteries are a data center sustainability challenge hiding in plain sight. Lead-acid batteries contain significant amounts of lead and other hazardous materials that create a highly pollutive and hazardous recycling process. In fact, environmental organizations have identified used lead-acid battery recycling as the world’s #1 pollution problem.[1]

Lithium-ion batteries are not much better. For example, the extraction of lithium has significant environmental and social impacts, from water pollution and depletion to leaching, spills and air emissions of toxic chemicals.[2] And that’s simply for manufacturing: lithium-ion batteries do not yet have a clear, self-funded path to recyclability at end-of-life.

It’s for reasons like these that a recent Climate Impact Report gave NiZn batteries the best climate impact score for any backup battery technology—9.4 out of 10.  Let’s look deeper at the paper’s analysis to understand the bigger picture of how backup batteries impact data center sustainability.

Superior GHG emissions savings

The most direct way to evaluate environmental impact is by comparing a battery’s Carbon Return on Purchase (CROP) with that of other chemistries. CROP measures the greenhouse gases (GHG) avoided per kWh of customer energy storage.

In the report from Boundless Impact Research & Analytics[1] which was reviewed by an independent battery industry expert, analysis showed that ZincFive’s NiZn batteries offers six times or more avoidance of GHG emissions compared to lithium-ion and four times more compared to lead-acid chemistries.

The Climate Impact Profile also compared the battery chemistries for Carbon Payback Time: the Time required for emissions savings from the product’s use to offset the GHG of its production. Comparing production and product use, the authors concluded that NiZn had, by far, the shortest Carbon Payback Time. Li-Ion and Lead-Acid batteries exhibit roughly 400% longer Carbon Payback Time.

A much higher CROP and shorter Carbon Payback Time contribute to superior GHG reductions using NiZn battery technology.

Yet there’s more to the picture.

Lower environmental impact across several dimensions

This chart from the Climate Impact Report presents a bigger picture how the backup battery chemistries compare in four other dimensions associated with the manufacturing process of the batteries:

  • Product GHG: The NiZn battery GHG Footprint of producing the battery was estimated to be significantly lower than the manufacturing GHG Footprint of lithium-ion, lead-acid, and sodium sulfur batteries.
  • Energy Footprint: Energy Footprint of the NiZn battery was estimated to be between 20 and 35 percent less than lithium-ion batteries, sodium sulfur batteries and lead-acid pure lead batteries during the manufacturing process.
  • Water Footprint: The NiZn battery Water Footprint during production was estimated to be 96% lower than the average for lithium-ion batteries.
  • VOC Footprint: Unlike lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, the NiZn battery does not use VOCs in production.

Alignment with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

The Climate Impact Report also explains how the advantages of NiZn technology impact the environment in line with the relevant impact categories and codes defined by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Now picture how NiZn batteries can help your data center optimize sustainability.  Click here to get your copy of the Climate Impact Profile by Boundless Impact Research & Analytics.

[1] Pure Earth/Green Cross 11th annual 2016 report, “World’s Worst Pollution Problems”, “World’s Worst Pollution Problems”, Fact Sheet – Lead-Acid Battery Recycling and Lead Pollution;



Steve Jennings, ZincFive SR VP Sales & Marketing
Steve Jennings
Sr. VP Sales & Marketing, ZincFive
Steve leads the ZincFive sales and marketing team and brings senior executive experience in technology companies serving the energy, clean tech, communications, computing and semiconductor industries. Steve and his team are focused on providing superior performing, safer and greener energy storage solutions based on nickel-zinc batteries to mission critical applications in the data center, IT and intelligent transportation markets.