Realising the potential of lithium-ion battery technology in data centres
Power Control Ltd
Data Centre Sustainability Innovation Of The Year.
Entry Description
Although lithium-ion is not a new technology, having been used in handheld devices and in the automotive industry for many years, in 2020 it became one of the hottest topics of the UPS industry. Realising its potential to drastically increase efficiencies and reduce the amount of space needed for the critical power infrastructure, data centres were the first to take interest in the developments.

Up until recently, the sticking point of lithium-ion technology had always been the cost. In recent years the cost of lithium-ion has decreased due to the growth in the number of factories now producing the technology. This is in line with a rise in EV vehicles needing lithium-ion batteries, energy storage solutions, industry 4.0 and smart cities.

A second hurdle is that data centres tend to err on the side of caution sticking to what they know because why reinvent the wheel? Data centre operators know VRLA batteries are reliable enough to achieve the desired tier ratings and efficient enough to reach PUE ratings of >1.2. However, with environmental considerations becoming an increasingly important factor for customers when looking for a data centre, and with the need to expand data centre facilities to support the exponential growth of data, operators must look to a smaller, more energy-dense and more efficient option.

Test platforms in live data centre facilities are an important way to analyse the performance of the new(ish) technology before being deployed and supporting customer servers. This puts minds at rest that the technology is as reliable as it claims to be and will provide the level of resilience needed in the highest of Tier data centres.

One of these test sites has been installed at Kao Data, a well-established, high-performance data centre developer/operator with facilities in Harlow, Slough and Northolt. Kao Data prides itself on spearheading the energy efficiency and sustainability agenda by reducing emissions across the entire facility. Using 100% renewable energy, the data centre wanted a UPS provider who could match their industry-leading data centre with technology that is at the cusp of efficiency innovation.

Working in partnership with technology giant, Huawei, they entrusted the support of Power control to install their SmartLi Lithium-ion critical power solution. At the forefront of critical power developments, the SmartLi solution is a high energy density and small footprint lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery solution. Power Control installed this alongside a UPS5000-H modular UPS solution and configured it to a 1200kW capacity.

With the help of Kao Data, Power Control installed the infrastructure for Huawei and brought the solution to life. The installation was filmed to share real activity and demonstrate the underlining benefits of the high-tech equipment being installed into a next generation data centre. Following the filming, the demonstration suite was opened to consultants, contractors, engineers, and other interested parties to view both the data centre and Huawei UPS up-close.
The Huawei UPS5000-H is paired with a Huawei Smart-Li battery solution to provide the ultimate efficient infrastructure. The highly reliable Lithium-Ion Phosphate (LFP) batteries are the most stable of the lithium-ion cell chemistries meaning they are the safest to use alongside a UPS. They also achieve 15 years of design life, long cycle lifespans in a smaller footprint and reduced weight solution. In addition, each UPS features a redundancy design with no single point of failure.

Also contributing to their efficiency objective, LFP batteries can work reliably at wider temperature ranges than other rechargeable batteries. This meant Kao Data can save on cooling costs and as cooling is a big contributor to PUE ratings, can improve on efficiencies too.
Rob Mather, Director at Power Control commented:
“Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) systems have become as efficient as they can be without impacting on reliability. Due to their very nature and the purpose that they serve, UPS are unlikely to ever become 100% efficient. However, by dropping the transformer, moving to IGBT rectifiers, and now moving toward Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery solutions, UPS systems can reach upwards of 97% efficiency.”

Richard Collar, Technical Director at Kao Data commented:
"Space within a colocation data centre is a rich commodity and as a high performance operator, facilities are always looking for ways we can maximise our colocation capacity. Thanks to Power Control’s support, we’ve been able to view and test the Huawei UPS5000-H which is able to provide the power and resilience we need as a data centre operator but across a considerably reduced footprint. This is a game changing innovation in power delivery.”