Nickel-Zinc UPS Battery Cabinets are Built For an Easy Upgrade at Data Centers Worldwide

June 28, 2024

Description

As the world’s first NiZn BESS (Battery Energy Storage Solution) product featuring backward and forward compatibility with megawatt class UPS inverters designed for lead-acid batteries, ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinet offers a drop-in replacement for battery storage systems in both new and existing UPS installations utilizing lead-acid batteries. Through its use, data centers can efficiently upgrade their UPS systems to harness the benefits of ZincFive’s NiZn batteries.

Register to read full paper

Introduction

As cloud-based services and storage become central to business operations, data centers are under increasing pressure to ensure the resilience of their mission critical facilities. Data centers rely on uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systemsto secure continued operations during power outages and other disturbances, most often powered by lead-acid batteries. However, UPS systems that utilize nickel-zinc (NiZn) battery technology have specific advantages over lead-acid in terms of performance, reliability, safety, lifetime cost and climate impact.

Despite these advantages of alternative battery chemistries, most existing UPS systems were already designed to work with lead-acid batteries. Since each battery chemistry has its own charge/discharge profile, these UPS systems often would require additional hardware and re-engineering to accommodate non-lead-acid batteries. The time and cost needed for such modifications prevent the switch from lead-acid to alternative chemistries.

Thus, the best solution to this dilemma is a “drop-in replacement” battery storage system that not only enables the incorporation of alternative battery chemistries, but also functions in an existing UPS system without the need for additional modifications. This characteristic enables backward and forward compatibility that saves UPS Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and data centers time and money by integrating new battery types into traditional UPS systems without expensive modifications.

As the world’s first NiZn BESS (Battery Energy Storage Solution) product featuring backward and forward compatibility with megawatt class UPS inverters designed for lead-acid batteries, ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinet offers a drop-in replacement for battery storage systems in both new and existing UPS installations utilizing lead-acid batteries. Through its use, data centers can efficiently upgrade their UPS systems to harness the benefits of ZincFive’s NiZn batteries.

Why Switch from Lead-Acid to Nickel-Zinc?

Historically, most data centers depend on lead-acid batteries to power their UPS systems. The lead-acid battery was the first chemistry used and remains popular today, but alternative battery chemistries such as lithium-ion and nickel-zinc offer compelling value propositions driving many data center end users and OEMs to switch to a new battery chemistry.

Modern data centers bear a larger compute and power burden each year. Digital transformation, 5G, edge computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning all require a continually increasing level of computing power and density. For example, Dell expects that future rack densities will far exceed those of today,¹ which have already vastly grown. Since 2012, the amount of computing used for the largest AI training runs has expanded by more than 300,000 times,² and the computer resources consumed by AI double every 100 days.³

The rising power density per rack and the need to provide space for as much compute power as possible in the data center also applies to infrastructure UPS and energy storage densities need to increase to reduce the infrastructure footprint. Additionally, data centers are being designed and built both faster and larger, emphasizing these trends further.

The shortcoming of lead-acid batteries is particularly evident when compared to the capabilities of ZincFive’s NiZn batteries:

Power Density

NiZn batteries have higher power density than lead-acid batteries, so by choosing NiZn battery backup, data center designers can reduce the footprint needed for energy storage. In fact, NiZn batteries have twice the power density, and so can reduce the footprint by as much as 50% compared to lead-acid batteries. Similarly, NiZn batteries can deliver the same amount of power with half the weight of lead-acid batteries. This reduces the structural requirements of the UPS room. Smaller footprint and less weight will reduce capital expenditure (CapEx) costs associated with energy storage.

Safety

Data center operators are responsible for the safety of their facilities and personnel. NiZn technology is inherently safer than lead-acid or lithium batteries. NiZn batteries do not exhibit thermal runaway and are non-flammable, as proven through testing at the cell level using the Underwriters Laboratories UL 9540A test method. Their superior weight and safety makes the batteries easier to handle.

Reliability

Battery string reliability is key to avoiding unplanned maintenance: when a lead-acid or lithium-ion battery cell fails, it creates an open circuit that halts string operation. A weak or depleted NiZn cell, on the other hand, remains conductive, allowing the string to continue operating. This turns an emergency situation with other battery chemistries into a simple battery replacement at the next planned maintenance cycle with little cost and no operational impact.

  • Unlike lead-acid and lithium-ion chemistries, a weak or depleted NiZn cell remains conductive, allowing the string to continue operating.
  • Turns an emergency, unplanned maintenance situation for lithium and lead-acid into a simple string repair at the next planned maintenance cycle.

NiZn reliability delivers planned maintenance with no operational impact! This is a new paradigm in battery string reliability, contributing significantly to improved data center uptime.

Lifespan & Maintenance Costs

For lead-acid batteries, operating expenditures (OpEx) over the life of the UPS system can be more expensive than up-front CapEx. NiZn solutions dramatically lower OpEx through their much longer useful life and simplified maintenance. Additionally, the size and weight advantages of NiZn batteries compared to lead-acid batteries can lower the investment needed to house energy storage within data centers. NiZn batteries also have a wider operating temperature range than other technologies, which reduces demands on data center cooling systems. By lowering OpEx, ZincFive solutions reduce ownership costs over lead-acid based UPS products when looking across the total UPS useful life.

Sustainability

NiZn batteries are mainly composed of common, highly available, non-hazardous materials as opposed to lead-acid batteries containing significant amounts of lead and other hazardous materials. Even after a long operational life, NiZn is one of the most recyclable battery chemistries on the market. Unlike many other materials, both nickel and zinc can be recycled while maintaining their physical and chemical properties. ZincFive’s zinc electrode contains no hazardous lead, cadmium or mercury, and so is environmentally benign. In fact, NiZn batteries have the best climate impact score – 9.4 out of 10 – of backup battery chemistries typically used in data centers, according to a recent 3rd party Climate Impact Report.

As rack-level compute density rises, so do the requirements for backup power in smaller, safer footprints. With their high power density, longer lifespan, sustainability and greater reliability, NiZn batteries are the ideal choice for backing up the increasing data center loads.

Why Alternative Battery Chemistries Need Backward/Forward Compatibility

While NiZn batteries’ characteristics give data centers more than enough reason to make the switch from lead-acid, one challenge often stands in the way: the average data center UPS system was not built with them in mind.

Rather, most data centers were designed specifically to charge lead-acid batteries. Since every battery chemistry has a different charge/discharge profile, alternative batteries can’t charge from the typical UPS system without a costly and time-consuming reengineering process.

Fortunately, one workaround exists to avoid that extra time and cost. A NiZn battery chemistry can, in fact, charge from a UPS made only for lead-acid battery profiles without additional hardware – as long as it has backward/forward compatibility, the ability to seamlessly operate with a UPS designed for a different battery chemistry than its own.

Less Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint than lithium-ion batteries when compared to nickel-zinc.

Less Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint than lead-acid batteries when compared to nickel-zinc.

Less energy footprint than lithium-ion and lead-acid pure lead batteries when compared to nickel-zinc.

Even including water requirements for raw material extraction, the ZincFive battery still demands 96% less water than the average lithium-ion battery.

ZincFive’s BC Series UPS Battery Cabinet: the Key to an Easy Upgrade

ZincFive‘s BC Series Battery Cabinets, while housing NiZn batteries with all of their associated benefits, adapt the lead-acid charging system to the needs of the nickel-zinc battery. The battery cabinets’ intelligent charging & monitoring system emulates the profile of lead-acid batteries to the UPS. Since the UPS doesn’t “know” that the NiZn battery string has a different chemistry, it operates the string just as it would for its previous lead-acid inhabitants.

This way, ZincFive’s UPS Battery Cabinet’s specialized profile allows operators to use NiZn battery cabinets as “drop-in” replacements. Able to support 1MW of UPS output power with only four battery cabinets and the industry’s smallest linear footprint, this NiZn Battery Cabinet offers a lower TCO, lower maintenance and higher performance alternative for data center UPS energy storage.

Conclusion

By utilizing ZincFive’s BC Series Battery Cabinets, data center operators can easily integrate NiZn’s benefits into existing UPS systems with no need for hardware modifications. The cabinets’ backward and forward compatibility with megawatt class inverters allows them to function as a straightforward drop-in replacement for existing lead-acid battery cabinets. This allows data centers to take advantage of NiZn’s higher power density, superior reliability, lower costs, longer lifespan, and multiple environmental advantages that modern data centers need: the perfect choice to safely back up their power and maintain critical operations.

Citations

¹ https://www.delltechnologies.com/asset/en-us/products/servers/industry-market/2020-server-trends-and-observations-brief.pdf

² https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/11/11/132004/the-computing-power-needed-to-train-ai-is-now-rising-seven-times-faster-than-ever-before/

³ https://openai.com/blog/ai-and-compute/

https://www.ul.com/services/ul-9540a-test-method

https://www.boundlessimpact.net/climate-impact-assessment