Why Choose Lithium Ion Battery Systems for Data Centers to Prevent Outages?

Data centers are a vital part of everyday operations for most businesses. They are responsible for delivering applications that businesses rely on. They house and protect proprietary information plus other high-value, mission-critical data. And data centers are often responsible for ensuring legal conformity too.

Unplanned Data Center Outage avoidance is the top facility priority and it is their responsibility minimize risk while meeting increased environmental demands, equipment refresh projects and dwindling maintenance budgets .

If an unplanned data center outage occurs, the cost to recover and cost of lost business rapidly outweigh and budget cut savings decision. You don’t want to be the one who approved the cost savings, that lead to an outage. A recent report by Uptime Institute highlighting key findings from the 12th Annual Global Data Center Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey in the digital infrastructure industry, says outages are still too common and becoming more expensive.

Unplanned data center outages are far more common occurrences than they should be. According to the 12th Annual Global Data Center survey, “In 2022, 60% of [data center] operators reported have an outage (regardless of severity) within the past three years.” Although this is down from previous years, 69% in 2021 and 78% in 2020, the frequency is still too high.

According to the survey, outages are also becoming more expensive. “The share of all outages costing operators over $1 million has reached 25%, a significant increase from 15% in 2021. And with more than two-thirds now costing operators upwards of $100,000, the consequences are getting worse.”

Data Center Outages Often Caused by Power Outages

The loss of power is one of the most common reasons data centers fail, leading to an outage. Causes of power outages can vary but generally fall under one of these categories:

Distribution Disruptions Can Cause of Power Outages

The most common cause of power outages, a distribution disruption essentially means that the power from the power source can reach it’s intended destination, a.k.a. the data center. Distribution disruptions are often caused by environmental factors that obstruct the distribution path. Larger environmental conditions such as natural disasters can lead to more extensive outages that last extended periods of time. These may include hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, etc. Although storms/weather conditions, such as high winds, extreme heat, snow, and ice are the most frequent cause of widespread power outages but can often be repaired faster.

Transmission Failures Can Cause Power Outages

Transmission failures, which are rarer, can also be attributed to weather, but are more commonly caused by equipment failure, programming glitches or flaws, and human error. If equipment is not properly maintained or updated when necessary, it can lead to widespread power failures. The NERC Reliability Standards define the reliability requirements for operating for operating North American based bulk power systems which has helped to combat some of these problems.

Supply Shortages Can Cause Power Outages

Extreme weather conditions can also lead to power supply outages – essentially this occurs when there isn’t enough power to meet demand. When an extreme heatwave hit California, grid operators had to resort to implementing rolling blackouts to reduce electricity consumption back down to manageable levels. It may be a worst case scenario, but unfortunately it does happen.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for Data Centers

No matter the cause of the power supply disruption, it is essential that a data center have an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) in place. It is a critical component of any reliable data center. It is essentially a back-up power system that kicks in when a loss of power occurs which maintains the infrastructure and essential operations until power can be restored.

Without it, power fluctuations can damage hardware. Operations systems, mission-critical data, and proprietary information can become inaccessible bringing business operations to a screeching halt. And for data centers, this can violate terms of some Service Level Agreements (SLAs), potentially resulting in expensive payouts.

Batteries Are Being Used as UPS in Data Centers

Batteries are being used in data centers as the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) source which operates as the back-up power source in the event of a main power source failure. It keeps security systems, computers, and other electronic equipment running as expected. Past Traditional battery-powered UPS systems have utilized valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries, known for being one of the best, most reliable power sources on the market until recently. But now, lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries offer a much more cost effective alternative.

How Lithium-Ion Batteries Compare to VRLA Batteries for Data Centers

The initial installation cost of a li-ion backup battery system for a data center is generally higher than installing a VRLA battery system. As most systems have components that support VLRA batteries, upgrades to lithium-ion batteries can require replacing more than just the battery components. But with many top manufacturers of li-ion batteries are now making them specifically for data centers that were previously using VRLA batteries, installation costs are coming down, and making it easier to make the switch.

The Many Benefits of Lithium-Ion Battery Systems for Data Centers

But despite the larger upfront investment, lithium-ion battery systems for data centers deliver many more longer term benefits, which include:

Lower Overall Data Center Operations Costs

Over the lifetime of the system, the total cost of operations is much lower, with organizations reporting estimated savings of 30-50% according to a report by DataCenter Knowledge, a leading online source of daily news and analysis about the data center industry.

Smaller Footprint

A li-ion battery is 40-60% smaller in size than a VRLA battery requiring significantly less space. They also weigh 60-70% less too, making them much easier to maneuver, handle, and store.

Reduced Cooling Costs

Li-ion batteries are designed to safely operate at higher temperatures with much less degradation than VLRA batteries, thus cutting down on cooling costs.

Longer Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy of a VRLA battery is approximately 5 years, compared to the average life expectancy of a li-ion battery of 15 years. This results in 3 times less refreshes over a 15 year period – a significant savings.

Less Time to Charge

A standard VRLA battery requires approximately 10-12 hours to fully charge. Whereas a standard lithium-ion battery only requires approximately 2 hours to fully recharge. Plus, the shelf life of a li-ion battery is two years. So, unlike the VRLA battery, it doesn’t require prolonged trickle charging it, enabling the battery to remain at its fully charged level, requiring less energy and reducing energy costs.

Data Centers with Lithium-Ion Battery Systems Face Less Risks

Since data centers are at the center of many essential business activities, minimizing risk needs to be a top priority. Lithium-Ion batteries are more risk-averse than their VRLA counterparts.

Lithium-Ion Batteries Require Less Refreshes

With a life expectancy three times longer than VRLA batteries, lithium-ion batteries don’t need to be replaced as often, requiring less replacement work. And with li-ion batteries being much smaller and lighter, they are much easier to work with when work is required.

Better Reliability and Better Safety Features

With a longer shelf life, less time required to fully recharge, and less need for trickle charging, there are exponentially less opportunities for problems to arise during these processes. And because li-ion batteries are designed to operate at higher temperatures, there is less risk associated with the cooling process too.

And for those worried about the fire risks that plagued some of the lithium-ion batteries powering small devices, such as cell phones that frequently made national headlines in the past – these worries can be put to rest. A newer balanced structure and composition of chemicals has significantly reduced the risk of failure and risk of fire. Plus, li-ion batteries designed for powering data centers have built-in safety features, such as comprehensive monitoring that provides data/alerts to help proactively predict and prevent failure. All of these added features combine to make lithium-ion battery systems for data centers safer and more reliable.

Engineering PLUS Data Center Design Experts

Considering a data center renovation? Or interested in learning more about upgrading to a lithium-ion battery system for your data center? Talk to our Engineering PLUS data center experts for information about our data center assessments, design planning, and consulting services. We design custom data center solutions around your specific business requirements. Learn more about Engineering PLUS Data Center services.