Urban Electric Power Installs First Enterprise-scale Rechargeable Alkalines Battery Technology

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A file photo of San Diego Supercomputing Center’s new power backup system

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Urban Electric Power announced the installation of its rechargeable alkaline batteries at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). This technology will replace 20,000 pounds worth of toxic lead-acid battery technology and more than double the amount available for battery backup electricity.

Since its inception in 1985, the center at the University of California San Diego has been an international leader for high-performance computing and data-intensive computing. It was supported by the National Science Foundation. The SDSC hosts research computing loads on the campus as well as other UC campuses. It also houses a variety of researchers from across the country who are working on topics that have societal significance, such as climate change and genomics. A state-of the-art energy storage system, based on a well-known idea, will provide backup power for the massive computer clusters and petabytes worth of storage that are required to support this work. Christine Kirkpatrick (Division Director, Research Data Services at SDSC) and Secretary General of International Science Council’s Committee on Data(CODATA), said that this project had transformed the resilience model of our data center.

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Kirkpatrick’s Division provides all the services a researcher could need including data storage, sharing, searching, sharing, and reuse. She stated that “our computing capacity exceeded the generator’s size and we couldn’t increase it further.” “A large portion of our racks only have traditional lead-acid UPS coverage, which would provide 27 minutes of uninterrupted power in the event that there was an outage. A small portion of our data center runs on street power and is shut down immediately when the grid goes down. Urban Electric Power technology has made a significant impact on the world. Our UPS customers can now get power for hours, instead of minutes. We will also be able to expand the battery backup available to street-power users with the next phase of our installation. SDSC is the first company to use this revolutionary rechargeable battery technology. Our partnership with Urban Electric Power has helped us make our computing footprint more green.

Urban Electric Power has revived the century-old technology for zinc manganese dioxide cells. This chemistry is similar to household AA alkaline battery chemistry. Urban Electric Power uses a patent method to make them rechargeable for ten years or longer. This is 50 times more than the time Ford Motors tried to recharge alkalines.

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The initial SDSC installation contained 5,200 alkaline cells. This store one megawatt-hour of electricity. It replaces a number of lead-acid battery arrays that are being recycled. In Phase 2, 5,200 additional cells will be added to the San Diego site.

Urban Electric Power’s patent-pending battery technology was developed by a team from City College of New York, led by Professor Sanjoy Banerjee who is now the company’s CEO. They discovered a way to mix zinc manganese dioxide alkaline batteries with copper, bismuth and other ingredients to make them rechargeable. As the battery cycles, a separator between the cathodes permits repeated charging without degrading the battery.

These products are available for commercial and home use. They are being made in Pearl River, New York from readily available materials. Rechargeable alkalines are half the price of comparable lithium-ion battery products, and require less space and money than fire suppression systems.

Because it’s not susceptible to the tendency of lithium-ion to ignite hot-burning, difficult-to-extinguish flames, the technology has been UL-certified fire-safe. This is known as thermal runaway. It reduces the use of lead. This is a well-known environmental danger that can expose one in three children to lead poisoning. Ann Marie Augustus (Vice President of Operations at Urban Electric Power) said that there is an underbelly to the current global battery industry. Lead is toxic to produce and recycle, as well as to handle.

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