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Battery types used for auxiliary power supply in substations and power plan...

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Different types of battery used for auxiliary

power supply in substations and power

Different types of battery used for auxiliary power supply in substations and power plants

In industrial or substation applications mainly three types of batteries are used

1. Vented / Flooded Lead Acid batteries
2. Sealed maintenance free batteries/Valve Regulated Lead Acid
3. Nickel Cadmium (Ni-cd) batteries
For UPS applications batteries are the most popular and hence are widely used. Hence, in
this detailing, mainly emphasize has been put on these type of batteries.

Vented / Flooded Lead Acid Batteries

There are two types for vented or flooded lead acid batteries namely tubular and Plante.
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The difference between the two is the construction.

For tubular battery normal life is 8-10 years. The
Plante battery is both mechanically and electrically
more durable. The normal life for Plante batteries is
15-20 years. Because this type of battery generates
corrosive fumes when charging and because the
sulfuric acid electrolyte does evaporate to some
extent, these batteries must be used in a special
room, which is well ventilated to the outside and kept
away from delicate electronic equipments.
It needs separate room/racks with acid proof tiles for
installation. Because of evaporation, it needs regular
maintenance to check specific gravity, to add water
and acid. These batteries can withstand high
temperature, voltage, and deep discharge with
minimum damage to itself. A notice should be
exhibited in the battery room prohibiting smoking and
use of naked flames. These batteries cannot be
transported in charged condition and therefore need
charging at site.
Typical initial charging of the battery will take about 55 to 90 hours. Nominal cell voltage is
2V/cell. The charger for this battery should be able to provide the first charge at 2.6 to 2.7

These types of batteries are typically used for UPS Systems of very high rated capacity,

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typically engaged for plant application, wherein maintenance and space is not really an

Sealed Maintenance Free batteries (SMF)

These are also known as
Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries. These
batteries are the most popular for usage with UPS
systems for computer or commercial application. Being
sealed, these batteries do not emit any fumes and
hence can be very well installed next to electronic
equipment. These batteries also can be housed in a
close enclosure if necessary. These batteries are also
maintenance free and avoid any hassles of checking
specific gravity, adding water or acid, etc.
These batteries have a relatively lesser life of approx.
3-5 years. The life expectancy typically depends on
the number of charge/discharge cycle experienced by the batteries and the ambient
temperature in which the batteries are used. These batteries are primarily the most
popular for commercial applications due to Install and forget approach.

The Performance and service life of these batteries can be maximized by

observing the following guidelines:

Permissible operating temperature range of SMF batteries is 15 deg C to 50 deg C,

but using within an operating range 5 C to 35 C will extend service life. Below 15 deg C,
the battery changes its chemical composition and cannot hold a charge. You will enjoy
longer service life, if batteries are operated in ambient temperature range of 20 deg C to
25 deg C (68F to 77F). At lower temperature they have longer life and lower capacity
while at higher temperature they have higher capacity and lower life.
A good rule of thumb when determining battery service life in relation to temperature
is that for every 8.3 deg C (15F) average annual temperature above 25 deg C (77F), the
life of the battery is reduced by 50%. Therefore warranty of the battery should be ideally
reduced to 50% for every 8.3 deg C (15F) increase in operating temperature above 25 deg
C (77F).
SMF batteries are designed to have a float voltage of 2.3 V/cell. This means that a
12 V battery (with 6 internal cells) has a float voltage of 13.8 Volts. Most of the battery

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manufacturers recommend float voltage of 2.25 2.3 volts per cell. When there are more
cells (generally >120) in series, to compensate for higher temperatures, float voltage
should be decreased by approx. 3 mV per cell per deg C above 25 deg C. It should be
increased by the same amount when operated at a temperature less than 25 deg C to
avoid undercharge. The Cutoff voltage is 1.67 V/cell for high rate of discharge (
It is recommended that SMF batteries should not be left in totally discharged state
more than 72 hrs. The batteries may get partially or fully damaged due to SULPHATION if
charging does not start within 72 Hrs from totally discharged state. Sulphation is the
formation of lead sulphate on negative plates which acts as an insulator and has a
detrimental effect on charge acceptance.
In normal float / equalize use (2.25 to 2.35V/cell), gas generated inside battery is
recombined into negative plates, and return to water content of the electrolyte. Thus
electrical capacity is not lost because of this recombination. There is no need to add
external water, but due the corrosion of the electrodes battery will eventually lose capacity.
At ambient temperature of 30 40 deg C, the shelf life of batteries is 5-6 months
only. A freshening charge must be given to the batteries every 6 months, if needed to be
stored for longer periods. Batteries should be kept in dry, cool place. At ambient
temperature of 20 deg C (68F), the self-discharge rate is 3-4% (approx.) of rated capacity
per month. The self-discharge rate varies with ambient temperature.
SMF batteries are equipped with a safe, low pressure venting system, which
operates at 7 psi to 10 psi (can vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer),
automatically releasing excess gas in the event that gas pressure rises to a level above
the normal rate ensuring no excessive buildup of gas in the batteries. Resealing is
automatic once the pressure is returned to normal.
Cyclic life of the battery depends on ambient operating temperature, the discharge
rate, the depth of discharge, and the manner in which the battery is recharged. The most
important factor is the depth of discharge. At a given discharge rate and time, the
shallower the depth of discharge, the longer is the cyclic life.
Failure mode at the end of life includes:
1. Capacity decrease
2. Internal short circuit
3. Damage to container/lid
4. Terminal corrosion
5. Reduced open circuit voltage.

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The IEEE defines B (Bend of useful life) for a UPS battery as being the point
when it can no longer supply 80 percent of its rated capacity in ampere-hours (AH). The
relationship between AH capacity and runtime time is not linear, a 20% reduction in
capacity results in a much greater reduction in runtime. When battery reaches 80% of its
rated capacity, the aging process accelerates and the battery should be replaced. Some
UPS/ Battery manufacturers define B (Bend of useful life) for a UPS battery when battery
capacity reaches 50-60% of its rated capacity.
Mixed use of batteries with different capacities, different makes should be avoided
as it will cause accelerated aging of the whole string.
If two or more battery groups are to be used, connected in parallel, they must be
connected to the UPS through lengths of wires, cables or busbars that have the same loop
line resistance as each other. This makes sure that each parallel bank of batteries
presents the same impedance to the UPS as any other of the parallel banks thereby
ensuring correct equalization of the source to allow for maximum energy transfer to the
UPS load.
The normal life SMF battery will support approx. 200 charge/discharge cycles at
25 deg C (77F) and 100% depth of discharge.
The term B (Bend of useful life) for a UPS battery refers to the fact that these
batteries do not require fluid. But preventive maintenance like checking for cracks and
deformation of the container & lid, electrolyte leakage/spills tightening of the connection
etc, particularly for higher AH capacity batteries should be done to prevent any damage.

Nickel Cadmium Batteries (Ni-Cd)

Ni-cd batteries do emit hydrogen and oxygen gas, products of electrolysis, but there are
no corrosive gases as lead acid batteries, so these can be installed near electronic
equipment. Water consumption is relatively low and so therefore maintenance is low.
Normal service life is 20-25 years. These are most expensive of the various types of
batteries previously discussed. Initial cost may be approximately three times that of lead
acid battery depending upon their AH capacity.
These batteries do not experience the severe shortening of life when operated at elevated
temperatures and perform better at low temperatures than do the lead acid batteries.
Nominal cell voltage is 1.2 V/cell. The battery chargers and inverters have to be designed
to operate with low end cell cutoff voltages and higher recharging voltages needed for
such batteries.
These batteries occasionally demand boost charging and typically find their applications
wherein UPSs support critical equipment in hazardous environment such as chemical,
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fertilizer, cement industry.

As spelled earlier, all the above discussed types of batteries have their own merits and
demerits. Let us now look at them individually.

A) Vented / flooded Lead acid batteries

1. Most economical among three types of batteries.
2. Life is higher than SMF batteries.
3. Robust- not much sensitive to temperature.
1. Needs periodic maintenance- twice a month.
2. Emits corrosive fumes.
3. Needs special battery room with acid proof tilling.
4. Cannot be transported in charged condition, initial charging takes 55 to 90 hours.
5. Needs specially trained persons for handling due highly hazardous sulphuric acid.

B) Sealed maintenance free batteries / Valve Regulated Lead Acid

1. No maintenance as far as water filling, specific gravity check etc is concerned.
2. Can be shipped in charged conditions so ready to use.
3. User friendly.
1. Leaving batteries in discharged state for longer life will reduce life significantly or can
damage them permanently.
2. Very sensitive to temperature
3. Service life lowest among the three types
4. Costlier than flooded / vented lead acid battery

C) Nickel Cadmium (Ni-cd) batteries


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1. Moderate maintenance
2. Higher service life
3. less sensitive to temperature
4. Fumes not corrosive so can be installed near electronic equipment
1. Most expensive among three types
2. Cannot be transported in charged conditions.
3. Compatibility with respect to charger and inverter needed to be considered.

Summary of Techno-Commercial Analysis between Ni-Cd & Lead

acid Batteries

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Worst case failure is
cell short circuit.
Result is reduced
performance. The
battery will continue
to support the

Lead acid


Reliability Criteria

Worst case failure This point makes

is cell open circuit. NiCd to be superior
Result is complete in terms of purpose
loss of battery,
known as sudden
death, resulting in
an unpredicted
system failure.

Requirement of
Air-Conditioning &
additional cost of
Electrical Energy


Additional Cost due

to Air conditioning
equipment and
running cost-For

Battery Life as
claimed by UK

20 Years

5-7 Years

Replacing cost of
VRLA after every 5-7
years will involve
manufacturing cost
escalation during
that year. Eg.at 6th
year, 12th year and
18th year.

Battery Cost

Approximately 3
times than VRLA

Relative Costs
Ni-Cd cells have a
Initial & Life Cycle higher initial cost
than lead acid but
superior lifetime and
characteristics, giving
a lower life cycle cost
in many applications.

Lead Acid has a

low initial cost but
a restricted
lifetime. In many
applications they
can have a poor
life cycle cost.

Physical Size

Ni-Cd cells are

generally larger than
VRLA cells.

In terms of Ah,
Lead acid (VRLA)
is the most
compact battery.

Water Topping


Not Required

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Summary of Comparison between tubular flooded (ordinary

Lead-acid) battery with SMF Lead Acid Battery

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Tubular Lead Acid battery

VRLA Battery

Tubular positive Plates:

The positive active material is held in a
polyester tube. This does not allow the
materials to shed during chargedischarge cycling resulting in long cyclic
life- minimum 1200 cycles at 80 % depth
of discharge.

Flat pasted positive plates:

The positive active material is a paste
form pasted over a lead alloy grid. This
results in a shorter cyclic life compared to
tubular construction.- minimum 500
cycles at 80% depth of discharge

Electrolyte: Stationary batteries of UPS

and Power plant back up works on low
specific gravity (1.200) electrolyte and
larger in volume. This results in less
corrosion of grids and longer life. The
larger volume keeps the battery
comparatively cooler which also adds to

Electrolyte: VRLA batteries work on high

specific gravity electrolyte (1.280 to
1.300) and less volume. The cells get
heated up during charging and high rate
discharges which affects the service life.

Separators: Micro porous poly ethylene

separators are used. This permits the ion
movement and positive to negative plate

Separators: Adsorptive glass mat

separators are used in these batteries
with a closer spacing between the
positive and negative plates. Chances of
cell shorting are therefore more.

Charging compatibility: Tubular

stationary lead acid batteries can be
charged with constant current and
constant voltage mode. Flooded
electrolyte batteries can withstand more
abuses during charging. Water lost in
electrolyte during such abusive
overcharging could be easily made up
manually by periodic top-up. Lagging
cells could be brought to normal life by
an extended equalizing charging without
significantly affecting the other cells.

Charging compatibility: VRLA batteries

require constant voltage charging with a
specified limit only specifically to avoid
overcharging. If by any chance, the
charging conditions are altered, the
battery will get heated up which will
deteriorate the battery life. Though there
is no need to top-up due to the
recombination principle, it is not always
100% efficient, so some water loss
during use is not avoidable. This results
in a further increase in electrolyte specific
gravity and life reduction. Equalizing
(Extended) charging in VRLA batteries
results in some cells getting heated up
and life reduction.

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Containers: We use transparent SAN

containers. The electrolyte level is easily
seen for topping up needs and ease of
maintenance. Low maintenance.

Not applicable: Cannot monitor


Need for temperature control: Due to

the large electrolyte volume the
temperature of the cells generally do not
rise abnormally during charging. No need
for Air conditioning.

Need for temperature control: The

close packing arrangement and
compactness of the stack in the cell
assembly rises the temperature sharply
during charging. Due to this, VRLA
battery manufacturers invariably
recommend the need for air conditioned
environment for the battery
compartments. This adds to the cost of

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About Author //

Asif Eqbal - Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical & Electronics

engineering, from Manipal University, (Karnataka), India in 2006.
Presently involved in the design of EHV outdoor substation and
coal fired thermal power plants for more than seven years. Motto of
joining EEP as a contributor is to share my little engineering
experience and help the budding engineers in bridging the
conspicuous gap between academics and Industrial practice. If
you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it, so that people who are genuinely
interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating
timeless learning processes".

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