How ABB and Their Customers Future-Proof Construction Supply Chain with NiZn Technology

November 27, 2023

A key challenge in the data center environment is the need to future-proof and scale operations. As organizations strive to remain at the cutting edge of technology, having a comprehensive plan for procurement helps ensure that their supply chains can meet current and future demand.

Strengthening this process was crucial for Corscale Data Centers and KW Mission Critical Engineering, who partnered with ZincFive and ABB to bring a data center in Northern Virginia to completion. This project was discussed in detail during a panel at the 7×24 Spring 2023 Conference, moderated by Harry Handlin, ABB U.S. Data Center Manager. The discussion featured Aaron Schott, Director of Product Management of Data Center Solutions at ZincFive, Nic Bustamante, Chief Technology Officer at Corescale, and Gary Russinko, Managing Pricipal at KW Mission Critical Engineering.

Corscale’s main project goal was to focus on improving sustainability, which becomes even more of a challenge when supply chains are constrained. 

The project is a five-building campus providing 300-400 megawatts on a 130-acre property. The data center was designed to use modular equipment for generators and UPS rooms in order to have flexibility in their function, which would allow the data center to rapidly scale its capacity and services in order to meet any changes in customer demands. Corscale chose ZincFive’s nickel-zinc batteries for their impressive sustainability benefits in addition to reliability and unparalleled safety.  

Why Data Center Operators Prefer Nickel-Zinc Batteries

Procurement is an important step in navigating supply chain challenges, as organizations must source components that are aligned with their project goals and are reliable and compatible with their existing infrastructure, without compromising project timelines. Circularity was a common theme of this project, in terms of the design, equipment, and use of materials. ZincFive’s nickel-zinc batteries use materials that are more commonly sourced from the Earth and do not use conflict minerals. 

At the scale that Corescale plays at, circularity becomes a central theme for us. Looking at ZincFive, we’re using materials that are far more common in the Earth, designing a battery that in itself is easy to recycle. The fact that the product also lasts longer for us means that the life cycle model gets much better for us.

Nic Bustamante, Chief Technology Officer at Corescale

The teams looked into ways to reduce waste and optimize processes throughout the supply chain. ZincFive’s batteries have higher recyclability, and longer life cycles, which are favorable features for operators to minimize maintenance times. They also weigh less, which makes it easier to transport via roadways, and they are safe for air freight. In this case, Nic Bustamante explains one of the most important characteristics of nickel-zinc batteries: 

“A big thing for customers is that [NiZn batteries] fail closed. Which I think is something people don’t talk about enough; almost all batteries fail open, so we love that.” 

Failing closed allows other batteries in the cell to continue to discharge. This poses the question: what do data centers really need? To make sure their batteries can sustain high currents, safely, reliably, and consistently for long periods of time. 

The inherent safety of ZincFive’s battery technology provides an additional layer of flexibility during the construction phase. 

That’s the neat thing about having a chemistry that is inherently safe. You can take the chemistry and design it for maximum output power and push the limits of what batteries can do.

Aaron Schott, Director of Product Management at ZincFive

UPS battery cabinets can be populated before they even leave the factory, and can be shipped to a container manufacturer. This saves time on assembly and allows the containers to be shipped to the project site fully assembled.

“One of the drawbacks that is perceived of factory witness testing is that we have to ship all this equipment to one place, then when we’re done take it all apart, ship it to the site, and reinstall it,” Gary Russinko explains. 

The ability to install all components in the container, test it, and then ship it tested to the project site avoids the traditional factory witness testing process, significantly reducing delivery timelines.

Transparency Between Suppliers and Customers

Data centers must have optimized and transparent inventory planning, as well as enhanced workflow processes. This ensures that all equipment is up to date and functioning properly, ensuring maximum efficiency and uptime. To ensure compatibility, teams should research and invest in components from reputable vendors and should factor future expansions into their purchasing plans to minimize disruption during upgrades and expansions. 

Organizations should also ensure that their suppliers are adhering to industry standards and proactively managing risks in the supply chain. This includes evaluating components for quality and compatibility, verifying compliance with safety regulations, developing relationships with trusted vendors, and performing regular audits of suppliers.

The completed property features an expanded electric infrastructure to minimize downtime, optimize uptime, and maximize sustainability goals. The end result is a highly efficient, flexible data center that can support numerous applications with reliability and scalability. By taking these procurement steps, the teams at Corscale and KW Mission Critical ensured they were making smart investments in their supply chain management and created a more reliable system for their customer. 

ZincFive BC 2 - 500 UPS Battery Cabinets

A reliable data center is essential to any organization’s success. ZincFive ensures all necessary steps are taken to create a secure and dependable UPS battery system. Future-proofing the supply chain is critical in an environment where the demand for data centers is growing exponentially.

BC 2 – 500 Blog Post