July. 2023

Battery Energy Storage Systems (ESS)—Now is the Time for this Clear Winner

Backup power is critical to maintaining business continuity and keeping critical systems operational, from data centers and edge telecom/mobile sites to corporate offices, hospitals, hotels, retail establishments, transportation hubs, and processing plants. Generators have long been the primary source of backup power in commercial facilities. Fueled by diesel or natural gas, or a combination thereof, generators are typically wired directly into a building’s electrical grid to automatically activate during power outages caused by storms, blackouts, equipment failure, maintenance, or other disruptive events. However, as ESG initiatives rapidly take hold and corporations strive to reduce carbon emissions and long-term operational costs, a far better option is gaining ground – battery energy storage systems (ESS). 

Before you dismiss the idea of using a battery ESS because you’ve heard they are prone to failure, have a shorter service life, and are too expensive, hear us out. Technology advancement and increased adoption over the past decade have improved reliability and cost, making an ESS economically viable. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that battery storage costs fell 72% between 2015 and 2019 and continue declining. These factors, combined with the following benefits, make now the time to consider a battery ESS for your facility. 

Better for the Environment, the Equipment, and the Pocket

While fuel-powered standby generators have stood the test of time when it comes to providing on-demand power, they depend on a continuous supply of non-renewable diesel, natural gas, or other fossil fuels. That means fuel-powered generators produce lofty greenhouse gas emissions compared to battery ESS. A recent study by Facilities Engineering Associates (FEA) found that a typical facility diesel generator system emits 2.15 times more CO2 than the U.S. grid, with an average yearly use of 100 hours emitting about 160 metric tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to charging more than 19 million smartphones or a full year of electricity for 31 homes. Switching to a battery ESS with no emissions saves the equivalent of annual carbon sequestered by 191 acres of forest!

Generator emissions also contain nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are known to negatively impact human health, with links to respiratory and cardiovascular problems and increased risk of cancer. Although diesel generators aren’t running 24/7, exposure to a week-long operation during an outage from a major storm could pose substantial risk. Generators also emit unhealthy noise levels, sometimes as high as 100 dB. While “silent” generators operate in the 70 – 80 dB range, the CDC states that any noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period will damage hearing. 

A battery ESS does not emit any VOCs and is virtually silent during operation. A battery ESS is also more compact and occupies a smaller footprint than an equivalent generator that requires a concrete slab and ample space for ventilation and noise reduction. But a battery ESS isn’t just better for the environment—with fewer voltage fluctuations than a generator, it offers more stable power to help maintain the performance of sensitive digital electronics and provide better protection during brownout conditions. A battery ESS also offers more instantaneous power and response to load demand than generators. 

Historically, a key concern with legacy battery storage has been thermal runaway. Caused when the heat generated within a battery exceeds the amount of heat dissipated, thermal runway increases battery current and leads to the potential risk of fire and a domino effect (aka runaway) where it can impact other batteries in the system. However, thermal runaway is no longer a significant concern with today’s UL 9540-compliant battery ESS. UL 9540 now includes UL 9540A Test Method for Evaluating Thermal Runaway Fire Propagation in Battery Energy Storage Systems, which specifies stringent limits for capacity and separation to address thermal runaway. At the same time, additional advancements in internal fire detection and suppression technologies enable battery ESS that actually exceeds the UL 9540A standard for even greater thermal runaway protection. Plus, don’t forget that generators pose their own risk of combustion and require strict precautions surrounding the storage and handling of fuel.

While batteries degrade over time (typically at about 10% every five years) and eventually require replacement, minimal maintenance is required. Generators may technically last longer but require ongoing maintenance and costly repairs like any engine. Over a generator’s life, fuel, oil changes, filter replacement, repairs, and eventual engine overhauls lead to operational costs that exceed any higher upfront costs associated with a battery ESS. Furthermore, unlike generators, a battery ESS can be easily expanded or downsized based on energy requirements. 

A Means to Energy Independence

A primary advantage of a battery ESS is its ease of integration with DC microgrids powered via renewable energy sources like wind and solar. When paired with on-site renewables, a battery ESS can provide energy independence by storing energy gathered during peak hours and reducing reliance on the grid and fossil fuels during non-peak hours. It can even allow facilities to reach net-zero! 

A battery ESS also more easily integrates with smart grid technology and advanced energy management and monitoring solutions compared to generators, allowing for an even greater reduction in energy consumption and reduced operational expense. Due to its environmental benefits, 30% or more of a deployed battery ESS qualifies for the tax credit under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. It can also provide additional LEED points when used with on-site renewable DC power sources and enable higher scores for other green building certifications. 

As data centers and facilities strive to meet new energy-efficiency standards and use 100% clean energy, many are migrating to a battery ESS. A recent market report estimates that the battery ESS market will grow from $5.4 billion this year to $17.5 billion by 2029, at an annual growth rate of 26.4%. As a step towards using cleaner technologies to provide backup power for millions of servers worldwide, Google is already starting to replace diesel generators with battery ESS at its data centers. Switch is now running its Nevada data centers on 100% solar power with lithium-ion batteries to store energy gathered during daylight hours. 

Sinclair Digital Services, Inc. can help you join the ranks of those shifting to a battery ESS! We are an official reseller of battery ESS from LG, a global multi-billion dollar company with a long history in the battery business that goes above and beyond UL 9540A standards. And we offer assessment, design, installation, and programming services to ensure the most cost-effective battery ESS for your specific needs. Click here to learn more about our LG battery ESS offering, or get in touch with us today at info@sinclair-digital.com to discover how we can help you save money and reduce your carbon footprint with our advanced energy storage solutions.