The rise of the modular build has been a significant industry-wide shift. With massive demand, construction methods have had to be more efficient and we have seen many turning to modular methods.

However, with this movement, a new question has arisen surrounding the best way to power a UPS system within a modular build. There has been a consistent move away from lead-acid batteries, but what kind of battery will work best along with new construction methods: Lithium-ion, or nickel-zinc?

In our recent DCD>Virginia broadcast series, we sat down with ZincFive to discuss how battery innovations contribute when the client’s uptime is the business model, and the debate over lithium-ion and nickel-zinc batteries ensued.

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Aaron Schott, director of product management for ZincFive Inc explored the benefits of both battery systems in the presentation.

“If you look at a simplified approach of two one-megawatt UPS’s, there is their maintenance bypass equipment, and there'll be some switchgear in here, and the lithium-ion batteries that are pretty common in industry today.

“They [lithium-ion batteries] provide quite a few benefits when you're looking at a modular data center. How much space the module takes up can be drastically reduced by installing a lithium-ion solution, through just the footprint savings over the traditional lead-acid batteries.

“They're traditionally lighter in weight, so you have a structure that doesn't have to hold 60,000 pounds of batteries, you can maybe do it in each UPS for 20,000 pounds or less.

“For the overall life expectancy of that modular build, lithium-ion batteries came into the market because they have a significantly longer life than lead-acid. So you don't have as much space allocated to removing and replacing batteries every five years, or with pure lead batteries, maybe every seven years. You can have the lithium-ion batteries and the UPS all lasting for 15 years, or potentially even up to 20 years with certain battery technologies.”

Lithium-ion batteries have, clearly, several demonstrable advantages over lead-acid. It is unsurprising that they have taken the industry by such a storm given this fact. But they are not the only competition in question.

“Another major technology out there that's hitting the market is nickel-zinc batteries. Some of the benefits to the modular space are that nickel-zinc batteries actually have a higher power density than a lot of the lithium-ion technologies out there, so you can get a smaller footprint for the batteries and produce the same runtime as you can with some of the lithium-ion technologies.

“Those benefits really help in the overall container design that reduces cabinet count, meaning there is less installation time for installing batteries into that system even when compared to lithium-ion, and drastically when compared to installing lead-acid batteries.

“You have fewer cabinets to install, fewer cabinets to anchor, and fewer cabinets to wire, so saving you a lot of electrician time, which we know is all in high demand no matter where you are in the country. Everyone is trying to have their licensed electricians getting more accomplished in one day because they're not installing a bunch of battery cables.

“Another one of the benefits of the safety and reliability of the nickel-zinc technology is that those batteries can be shipped completely installed inside of their battery cabinets. You can assemble the whole thing, power up the UPS, and do some battery discharges before it ever arrives at the site, so it gives you a lot of confirmation that the system is going to work when it's installed at your facility.”

In the end, it seems that the battery type is a matter of choice. Both options pose many benefits – what it depends on, is what your facility will look to prioritize when given the options.

Download the full episode for a deeper look into battery innovations’ contributions with ZincFive