With continued worldwide growth in cell phone subscribers, data usage, and network upgrades, the need for reliable power throughout the telecommunications network has never been more crucial.
There are several layers that provide this reliable power - the traditional utility grid, generators, renewables, and batteries. Even in the most reliable grid installations, batteries are a fundamental element of the ‘belt-and-suspenders’ approach to ensuring 100% uptime for tower owners and operators. For weak-grid sites, batteries are indispensable for providing power to bridge during times when the grid is unavailable. And in full off-grid installations, batteries are the key to enabling reliability and the lowest operating expenses.
While specific battery bank sizing will vary in these three scenarios (on-grid, weak-grid, off-grid), there are still some common attributes that are high on the wish list of tower operators, owners, and energy service companies.
Interested in solar batteries for telecom? Check out some of our other posts:
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1. The ability to handle the unpredictable.
Things don’t always go according to plan. HVAC systems break. Grid power goes down more frequently than expected. Power electronics fault and overcharge battery strings. The battery system is usually the last line of defense and must be able to handle these unpredictable events - the battery should be reliable to high temperatures, and able to handle overcharge and keep providing power. For example, our saltwater batteries are not impacted by elevated temperature (as compared to lead acid) and overcharge doesn’t accelerate failures or lead to safety disconnects or catastrophic failures.
2. The battery doesn't require constant babysitting.
Constantly dispatching resources to take care of battery systems is expensive and takes time away from other critical maintenance the same resources could be doing. Adding water to lead acid, performing equalization cycling, changing filters, checking connections, replacing seals - all of these annoying (and necessary) maintenance items cost money. So, choose a battery that is completely maintenance-free and designed for years of set-and-forget operation.
3. It just works - even when things go wrong.
Like any product on the market, batteries fail. Even the most reliable, highest quality battery will have the occasional quality blip. Lead acid batteries are assembled in series (to build voltage) before being put in parallel (to increase capacity). Situations can arise where a single 2V lead acid battery has a quality issue, casing the entire series string to fail because the capacity of the overall system is compromised by the capacity of the string (e.g. in a four-parallel string scenario, losing one string represents 25% of the overall system capacity). Other technologies do this differently. For instance, our saltwater batteries are built at 48V nominal and connected together in parallel - so losing one battery in a system of 24 batteries will only reduce system capacity by 4%.
4. The battery isn't a safety liability.
No one wants to be responsible for resetting the “days since last safety incident” counter back to zero. Safety should never be a compromise. However, it can be difficult to find a battery that isn’t a toxic bucket of acid, or contain highly flammable components. You can read more about battery safety and sustainability on our website.
5. It costs less in the long run.
And yet, at the end of the day what often matters the most is the long-term financial viability of the solution. While every installation is unique, when you add up the benefits of lower maintenance, less stringent HVAC requirements, and fewer service calls and replacements, it can make a bigger difference than a lower cost per kilowatt hour. Luckily for us, these factors result in our saltwater batteries being the lowest-cost solution as compared to alternative solar batteries.
Carefully considering these five things will make a difference for any telecom energy storage application! Read more about saltwater batteries for telecom here.