The NEC Energy Solutions Blog

3 reasons to replace lead-acid batteries in the data center

Lead-acid batteries have long held a dominant role in supporting bridge-to-backup functionality in data centers. The need for advanced solutions that support bridge-to-backup functionality is still clear in the data center sector, but the type of battery that works best may be changing. Lithium ion batteries offer key features that create clear advantages over lead-acid batteries, and they can end up improving the bottom line over time.

With these benefits in mind, let's look at three specific reasons why you should replace lead-acid batteries with lithium ion solutions:

1. Higher Power Output
When it comes to bridge-to-backup, success depends almost entirely on being able to draw large amounts of energy from batteries quickly. If half of your data center goes down at once, you need batteries that can immediately deliver large amounts of power without risk. Lead-acid batteries can be extremely limited in this area as power needs to be drawn slowly from them to ensure their capacity is not compromised. Lithium ion batteries can quickly discharge their stored  energy and help you respond to even the largest outages without power delivery disruptions.

2. Deep Discharges without consequences
The ability to rapidly discharge energy is great, but lead-acid battery life may be compromised when used this way. Available lead-acid battery capacity decreases as their discharge rate increases, and product life rapidly degrades when they are deeply discharged (i.e. more than 30-50%). This means the nameplate capacity of the batteries must be 2-3x greater than the level of desired performance. Lithium ion batteries are designed specifically to withstand deep depth of discharge (DOD), making them capable of lasting much longer over time without having to be replaced.

3. Lower total cost of ownership
We're going to be real with you – we get that lithium ion batteries present considerable cost challenges when making an initial investment. They are usually more expensive, at first, than lead-acid solutions. However, in most situations, the faster degradation of lead-acid batteries means they need to be replaced after a relatively short duration. Lithium ion batteries, on the other hand, can withstand the rapid and deep cycling necessary in bridge-to-backup scenarios without problems, allowing them to last several times longer than lead-acid options in many applications.

The long-term reliability of lithium ion batteries makes them a hardier energy storage option for bridge-to-backup solutions. This reduces the total cost of ownership of purchasing the solution. The end result is a situation in which you end up saving considerably over time even though you have to spend a bit more at the outset of the project.

Lead-acid batteries have been around for a while in data centers, but the functional and long-term benefits of lithium ion solutions are becoming clear.


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