Batteries for Microsoft’s data center sustainability
Saft’s battery technology is playing an important role in a new strategic partnership between technology giant Microsoft and TotalEnergies.
Signed in March 2021, the agreement will exchange technology expertise and services. It will support TotalEnergies’ digital transformation, as well as Microsoft’s ambition to become carbon negative by 2030. Under the agreement, Microsoft will evaluate Saft technologies in two areas to reduce the carbon footprint of its data centers.
Diesel genset displacement
Microsoft has announced a goal to eliminate its dependency on diesel fuel by 2030. This is used in generators to provide backup power for data centers. In addition to increasing its carbon footprint, diesel generators require regular maintenance, large on-site fuel tanks and may be subject to regulations limiting their operations.
Microsoft sees Saft as a partner in such an approach using its battery energy storage solutions (BESS), from its Intensium Max 20 High Energy container to the complete BESS design and installation, including engineering, PCS and transformers. Saft’s maturity and experience in lithium-ion technologies, as well as in software development in energy management will help to bring grid connected capabilities as additional services to the backup requirements.
To achieve longer-duration backup will require development of battery systems with high energy storage capacity and advanced control systems. Saft’s experts are now working with Microsoft to assess the long-term feasibility of such systems. These will need to be on a similar scale to some of Saft’s utility-scale energy storage projects, while also meeting the particular needs for data centers.
Specifying sustainability with Flex’ion Gen2
Microsoft also foresees potential for our latest data center UPS batteries to improve its sustainability. The aim is to use our Flex’ion Gen2 battery system to save energy, ensure the highest safety and support self-powered and remote monitoring. Our experts are now working closely with Microsoft’s data center engineers to be part of their specification as well as with preferred UPS vendors. “We launched the Flex’ion Gen2 in November 2020 to provide a step change in power performance for UPS batteries without compromise on safety,” said François Danet, Saft’s Global Business Development and Sales Manager.
“But it also offers sustainability benefits. Microsoft sees opportunities to reduce cooling requirements at data centers. That’s because the Flex’ion Gen2 is based on Saft’s lithium-ion electrochemistry that can operate at 35 ˚C with the appropriate level of safety standards, which is unique. As a result, data center operators can save energy and water previously required for cooling the battery room, and therefore reduce CO2 emissions. Another benefit is the reduction of critical raw materials such as cobalt, thanks to our LFP (lithium iron phosphate) based chemistry.”
Another useful feature for Microsoft is the self-powered battery monitoring system. It is powered from the battery itself so is independent of mains power and has the same availability as the backup system itself. This is important for data center operators as it optimizes system availability.
Power density as sustainability
While it may not seem obvious at first glance, the high power density of the Flex’ion Gen2 unlocks another sustainability benefit. Packing high power performance into a small space minimizes the footprint of the UPS. In turn this reduces the size of the data center building at every level from the foundation to the roof.
“There’s a significant amount of CO2 embedded in the steel and concrete that is used for construction,” says François, “Using a battery system with high power density can reduce the civil engineering requirements. Alternatively, it can simply free up space for other services.”
With a power density of 220 kW per cabinet, the Flex’ion Gen2 packs around 40 percent more performance than the first-generation solution.
Another important factor in reducing the overall footprint of the UPS is safety. Due to its high safety level (UL 9540A test standard) Flex’ion Gen2 offers data center engineers no requirements for an air separation gap of three feet (around one meter) between cabinets nor dedicated fire protection. This is normally required for fire safety when using some lithium-ion battery systems.
Looking to the future
With several opportunities to explore, the partnership between TotalEnergies and Microsoft will be interesting to watch. Microsoft has already awarded TotalEnergies a contract to supply 47 MW renewable energy to power installations in Spain. And looking ahead, the partners are working together to combine emerging technologies and digital solutions in an approach that will accelerate the net-zero pathway.