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Choosing the Right Batteries to Bolster Data Centers

Choosing the Right Batteries to Bolster Data Centers

In the world of data centers, power is everything. Data centers operate 24/7 and rely on an a specially engineered system of primary power and backup generators, with batteries bridging the gap in between. These power redundancies are in place to enforce the golden rule in data centers: you cannot have downtime and you cannot have a power outage.

Battery systems in data centers have typically taken on the role of uninterrupted power supply (UPS), providing short and intense bursts of power to keep servers running when main power fails and before diesel backup generators turn on. But recent advancements in energy storage technology have positioned batteries to revolutionize how data centers are powered, enabling new use cases such as microgrids, demand response, and load shifting. While batteries are beginning to prove their worth in data center settings, it’s crucial to consider the different battery technologies available and avoid the risks that some bring.

The Prevalence of Data Centers

Data centers have become ubiquitous in today’s digital landscape, underpinning the global infrastructure of information exchange. Their prevalence is evident in the exponential growth of data generated and processed daily, fueled by trends like cloud computing and big data analytics.

From multinational corporations to small businesses, organizations rely on data centers to store, manage, and distribute vast volumes of digital information. Moreover, the proliferation of online services and digital platforms has driven the expansion of new hyperscale data centers supporting thousands of individual servers that operate via high-speed internet connectivity. Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Google are just a few examples of hyperscale customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also developing rapidly and will advance to where it’s integrated in various aspects of our lives.

With all these advancements the demand for power will increase. According to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), data centers’ portion of total electricity use in the U.S will rise from 2.5% (130TWh) in 2022 to 7.5% (390TWh) in 2030. AI applications in particular rely heavily on complex algorithms and massive amounts of data processing. This surge in computational requirements translates into an increased demand for power.

Data Centers and Batteries

In addition to serving UPS needs, batteries enable multiple energy management features for data centers. Centers are now beginning to optimize energy usage by setting up microgrids consisting of renewables plus energy storage, allowing them to tap into stored power during peak demand periods and seamlessly transitioning between grid and off-grid modes as needed. Microgrids can also support data centers operation for longer durations in the event of a power outage.

By participating in demand response programs, data centers can actively manage their power consumption, mitigating strain on the grid and avoiding peak demand charges. For example, data center operators could configure their battery storage system to charge before a peak event so that only stored energy is used during peak times, lowering costs.

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) offer another pathway for data centers to enhance sustainability profiles while meeting growing energy demands. By committing to long-term agreements with renewable energy developers, data centers can secure a consistent supply of clean energy from renewables and storage systems at a competitive price.

State of Data Center Batteries

Battery technology in data centers is undergoing a transformative evolution, propelled by advancements aimed at enhancing reliability, efficiency, and sustainability. Traditional lead-acid batteries, while prevalent for back-up power, are gradually making room for more innovative solutions like lithium-ion batteries that are higher performing and unlock more capabilities. An even newer generation of batteries are making their way into data centers to offer high energy density, increased safety, and longer lifespan, which are all attractive traits for data center applications.

As data centers strive to meet escalating demands for performance and sustainability, battery technology continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of digital infrastructure, driving resilience and efficiency to new heights.

Risks to Consider

While advancements in data center battery technology offer compelling benefits, some types can also introduce inherent dangers and challenges.

Lithium-ion batteries, while renowned for their high energy density and fast charging, are susceptible to fires or explosions if not properly managed. These incidents pose significant safety risks to personnel and infrastructure within data center facilities. These fires have occurred and are devastating to technological infrastructures, the environment, and human safety. Further, they can have significant impact on government services, critical infrastructure, emergency response systems, and other high-impact applications.

Alternative Battery Chemistries for Data Centers

The future of data center battery technology lies with alternative battery chemistries. These alternative technologies can provide new options that increase the share of renewable energy powering data centers but with enhanced safety and reliability.

Alternative battery chemistries provide power without the dangers of fires and toxic gases, primarily by using non-flammable and non-toxic materials. These alternative battery technologies can provide a safer and more sustainable option to power data centers, which are in urgent need of reliable and scalable energy storage options in the face of growing energy needs.

Data centers are an integral part of the modern technological reality, so it is imperative that they are maintained in the safest way possible. Using alternative batteries to power large data centers significantly reduces the dangers that battery-powered centers pose to the world.

By embracing these alternatives, data centers can enhance resilience, lower operational costs, and position themselves at the forefront of sustainability initiatives. As technology continues to evolve, harnessing the potential of alternative battery solutions is essential for meeting the growing demands of the digital age while avoiding unnecessary safety risks.