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Over the last two years, organisations have been deploying their business continuity plans. Whilst in the UK, they may now be reverting to a new normal, their business, operational and technology strategies are far more intertwined than before the pandemic. No more so than in the healthcare industry, where we are seeing greater interest in lithium-ion battery UPS systems.
In an uninterruptible power supply, the battery provides a store of DC power used to power the inverter when the mains power supply fails or fluctuates (voltage or frequency or both) outside of a pre-set input window. The battery powers the inverter until either the mains power supply is restored, a standby power generator starts-up or the battery energy reserve is exhausted.
The most used battery in a UPS system and other standby power applications (from security to alarm panels) is a valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) type. A lead acid battery is suitable for standby applications and the technology evolved from the automotive industry. Think traditional car or generator batteries, where the battery set is required to power the starter-motor and keep power to certain electrical circuits i.e., tracking or security systems.
Lithium-ion UPS based systems have been one of the most hotly anticipated developments in uninterruptible power supplies. Lithium-ion or Li-ion is a generic term for a lithium-based battery but there are several types including:
|Lithium Battery Name||Description||Application|
|Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LiCoO2)||Manufactured from lithium carbonate and cobalt and referred to as lithium cobaltate or lithium-ion cobalt batteries. The battery has a short battery life and low energy storage usage leading to the need for more frequent recharging.||Mobile phones, laptops, and electronic cameras|
|Lithium Manganese Oxide (Li2MnO3)||Offering higher temperature stability than other lithium-type batteries and known as lithium manganate or lithium-ion manganese batteries, or li-manganese or manganese spinel batteries.||Medical equipment, power tools, electric motorcycles, and other applications.|
|Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC)||Use in applications requiring a high energy density or high specific power output.||Most commonly seen in power tools and automobile powertrains|
|Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide (NCA)||High energy storage and long working life and should be installed with monitoring systems for safety||Electric vehicles|
|Lithium Titanate||Has an extremely rapid recharge time and is also known as li-titanate.||Public transportation systems|
|Lithium iron phosphate (LFP or LiFEPO4)||Durable with a long life cycle that allows the batteries to be fully charged and stored with no fundamental detriment to battery life but requiring a monitoring system for electrical safety and also referred to as li-phosphate batteries||Electric bikes and other applications requiring a long lifecycle and high levels of safety including Uninterruptible power supplies|
LiFePO4 is the most used lithium battery in a Lithium-ion based UPS system in which offers a longer working life, more cycles and faster recharge times than a traditional VRLA battery UPS. Service life can be almost double (10years plus) than a lead acid battery which will either be a 5year or 10year design life system.
For more information on lithium-battery types see:
As in the electric vehicle industry, lithium-ion has been a transformative factor and the same is forecast for the UPS industry. The reasons for this include:
Whilst a lithium-ion UPS may have a higher cost to purchase than a lead-acid based system, overall, its operational and service costs, and compact size mean than it can be a more cost-effective option. Other applications include energy storage.
Uninterruptible power supplies started out as backup power devices, providing their critical loads with stored energy when the mains power supply fails or fluctuates. The rapid recharge times of lithium-ion is already proving why it is the battery type of choice for electric vehicles and renewably energy storage. A UPS system can be used in an equivalent way where renewable energy generation is available, and the lithium-ion battery is large enough.
A lithium-ion UPS system can be charged overnight when peak electricity costs are lowest and/or charged using renewable energy generated from nearby solar PV or wind turbines. The stored energy can be released to power the critical loads when energy costs are highest. Alternatively, the energy storage during traditional usage can be used to support national grids when peak shaving is required to maintain the grid frequency.
Larger lithium-ion UPS can also be used to support spikes in power demands by for example, medical imaging systems. In a situation where the available supply is limited to say 150kW, a suitable 3phase UPS installed with a lithium-ion battery, could use its stored energy to meet additional power spikes in demand from its battery set. In this instance, the Li-ion UPS is being used as both an energy storage system and a tertiary power supply.
HTM 06-01 provides information on the design, installation and testing of all fixed wiring and integral electrical equipment used for electrical services. HTM 06-01 recommends that batteries used for tertiary power supplies, for example, those used in an uninterruptible power supply, should have a design life of 10 years. For UPS systems this means having a UPS with a 10year design life lead acid battery or a lithium-ion battery set.
HTM 06-01 also defines a tertiary power supply as a third power supply that supplements the PES (primary energy supply) and the SPS (secondary power supply), usually in the form of an uninterruptible power supply or battery system. Whilst the SPS is more typically a standby power generator or CHP plant, lithium-ion UPS can provide an alternative eco-friendlier technology, compared to a diesel generating set. Battery-based systems are certainly preferred where noise pollution and fuel storage can be issues. Lithium-ion batteries are already being used in the UK as grid-scale energy storage devices and there is no reason why they could not be used locally to replace local standby power generators.
For more information on HTM 06-01 see:
Whether we are talking about public or private hospitals, healthcare service providers, doctors’ surgeries or even pharmaceutical manufacturing and scientific research centres, the need to harness the latest technologies to meet service demands or innovate at pace was always there. Whilst, new medical procedures and treatments may rely on new diagnosis, delivery, and monitoring systems, very often there has been slight change to the more traditional critical infrastructure systems including critical power and cooling. Lithium-ion UPS provide a way to innovate at the infrastructure level and help organisations such as the NHS move closer to meeting their 2019 commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 51% by 2025.
The UK is in that time of the year when weather events can lead to momentary power outages or even complete mains power supply failures. High winds, heavy snow and even flooding can lead to brownouts (lower mains voltages), surge voltages, short breaks in the electrical supply and even substations going offline. Whilst server rooms and data centres have uninterruptible power supplies, home workers can find their home PCs and networks exposed to power problems. So, ‘what is the best UPS’ for home workers?