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Eaton White Paper: Emerging UPS standby power sources

Four promising alternatives to the lead acid battery

Though an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) performs many important functions, most users value them chiefly for the emergency energy they provide during a power outage. UPSs give IT personnel the time they need to protect sensitive equipment and data from the effects of an electrical service interruption by starting a backup generator, shutting down systems in an orderly fashion, or moving data and processing to a disaster recovery site.

Today, most UPS products use lead acid batteries to store emergency standby power. A proven technology with many decades of successful service in a variety of industrial settings, the lead acid battery is usually the most cost-effective energy storage solution as measured by dollars per minute of backup time.

Yet despite these merits, lead acid batteries can be unpopular among data center managers due to their size, weight, maintenance requirements, toxic contents and relatively short service life, among other issues. As a result, UPS makers have long been searching for an alternative standby power technology that’s smaller, more reliable, and “greener” than lead acid batteries, yet no more expensive to operate.

Today, that hunt is nearing its end. Several exciting new standby power solutions, all rapidly approaching mainstream commercial viability, appear poised to give the lead acid battery a run for its money. This white paper will explore the strengths, weaknesses and future prospects of four such technologies: Lithium-ion batteries, flywheels, ultracapacitors and fuel cells…

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