from August 2012 ABT

meeting report

BATTCON 2012 - International Stationary Battery Conference

Westin Diplomat Resort, Hollywood, FL USA

May 15-17, 2012

This year’s Battcon International Stationary Battery Conference and Trade Show celebrated their 16th year with more than 550 in attendance at this annual event. The Battcon technical committee did a fantastic job with the convention program, which consisted of 19 papers by industry specialists, four expert panels and three workshops. The panel discussions were very informative with titles such as 1) Codes and Standards Related to Batteries and DC, 2) Corrective Actions – Identifying and Fixing common Battery Problems, 3) On the Fringe – Emerging Battery Applications and 4) “Ask the Experts”. The conference concluded Thursday afternoon with the final panel discussion called “Ask the Experts”. The workshops dealt with topics such as 1) Stationary Battery Basics, 2) Beyond the Fundamentals Seminar: Advanced Topics in Lead-Acid Batteries and 3) Focus on Seminar: Load Testing. The conference goers were able to mix and match the workshops, which in their fourth year were again very well received.

2b

Keynote Address – Sally Miksiewicz (East Penn Manufacturing).

The Battcon trade show was as big as ever and included ~57 exhibitors from around the world. This two-day trade show featured hors d’oeuvres and an open bar on Monday and Tuesday evenings that were sponsored by key exhibitors. The technical portion of the conference is advertised as being “non-commercial” and this year covered a mixture of industry topics. A brief audience survey during the opening session determined that the attendees were involved in all aspects of the industry including: UPS ~20%, Telecom ~20%, Utilities ~30%, Maintenance & Service ~20%, Battery Sales ~5% and Government ~3%.

5b

Albér – In the center is Mark Cordova (Albér) and on the left is Mohammad Rahmani (PSE&G).

The first presentation of the conference was the keynote address by Sally Miksiewicz, the CEO / vice chairman of East Penn Manufacturing. In her unique energized style, Sally gave the audience a very good appreciation for what is involved in managing the dynamic corporation that we all call East Penn. She began by discussing responsibility, to their 7,000 employees and their 10,000 customers. She quipped, “There is no cash cow” and “we can’t do the same thing today as we did yesterday”. In order for a product to exist it must: 1) Improve a life, 2) Right a wrong or 3) Make something better. She believes that innovation is the key to growth and discussed the product life-cycle. The “valley of death” is a typical period in the introduction of a new product that must be overcome or the product dies before it has a chance to flourish.

Creativity and inventors are certainly needed, but they can’t be greedy (no quick get rich scheme), which can ultimately hamper developmental progress. In presenting a snap-shot of the current battery markets, Sally noted that the SLI, motive power and standby markets will soon be joined by a new segment that she termed “PSOC” (Partial State of Charge). In this new developing market (which threatens to be very large), lead-acid batteries will be used in a partial state of charge as they are employed to improve fuel efficiency of the modern day HEV (hybrid-electric vehicle). In order for the lead-acid chemistry to meet the battery demands of this growing market she noted that improvements and developments must be innovated. At this point she faced the audience and said “There is still fight in the old dog!” Then drilling into the details, she noted that carbon and other additives are successfully being used to inhibit sulphation of the negative (the previous bane of PSOC operation in PbA). Advanced VRLA batteries built by East Penn are now successfully being operated in several HEV’s around the country without the need for a BMS (battery monitoring system). In fact, the more these vehicles are driven the tighter the cell voltages become. She concluded by talking about making a difference and doing it one step at a time. If you take care of the customer and you take care of the employees, the company will prosper.

Featured Presentations

Electric Utility Generation and Substation Battery Discharge Testing

by Steve Clark, senior engineer, Bechtel Power Corp.

This paper examined the subject of substation battery maintenance which focused on the testing and evaluation of these batteries. The current thinking is that load testing of substation batteries is the most expensive part of battery maintenance and there is a trend towards the use of internal Ohmic measurements in lieu of actual load tests.

6b

Alcad Standby Batteries – Sara Passoni (Alpha Industries Bedarfs GmbH) and Ivor Hay (Alcad).

Steve discussed the question, to test or not to test? There are many reasons (which may or may not be valid) for not wanting to perform discharge load tests and they are: 1) Discharge testing harms the battery and shortens the life, 2) This is a critical installation (a nuclear power plant) and we don’t have a back-up battery, 3) Recharge times place the installation at risk, 4) We don’t have the space and 5) Testing is too expensive. After discussing each of these concerns in detail, Steve was able to make good arguments for testing. The main argument is that there is not good correlation between Ohmic testing results and battery capacity. Steve sited a study that was conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) during 1998-2002. The results showed that there is a correlation between the Ohmic value and the battery’s capacity BUT there was no way to directly correlate the Ohmic results to the actual (tested) battery capacity.

4

East Penn Manufacturing – From left to right are Jim DeCoste, Jason Brumbach, Rennie Santangelo and Chad Christ..

Some of his final recommendations were: 1) Batteries larger than 500Ah should be discharge tested, 2) For batteries in applications that ensure grid reliability or protect the health and safety of the public, discharge testing should be performed. He notes that battery monitors are good diagnostic tools but are no substitute for discharge testing of visual examinations.

Game Changer? The Potential Impact of Vehicle Electrification on the Stationary Battery World

by Jim McDowall, business development manager, Saft America

McDowall began by making a very interesting point when he stated that government funding has created a US-based Li-ion battery industry that would otherwise not have existed for many years. It is for this reason and the fact that the electric vehicle industry is not developing as quickly as estimated, that these U.S. Li-ion battery manufacturers are now targeting the newly emerging energy storage market. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered U.S. grid operators to open their market to energy storage systems such as large battery systems. As a result, the Long Island Power Authority has recently issued a request for proposals for a 1,600Mwh (400Mw x 4 hrs) battery energy storage system. Such a huge battery is the equivalent to ~1 million HEV batteries (such as the 1.3Kwh battery that is used in the Toyota Prius). Containerized Li-ion battery systems are being marketed to meet this need and can be produced now that the government-funded factories are coming on-line.

7b

Exhibit Hall at the 2012 Battcon Trade Show.

As the industry considers the use of large Li-ion battery systems the first question that comes to mind relates to the supply of lithium. Jim informs us that after reading a new book on the subject, he does not doubt that lithium supplies will continue to be abundant for many years to come. He also used the words “caveat emptor”, let the buyer beware. Many energy storage applications will require absolute reliability so Ni-Cad and Lead-acid battery technology will be difficult to displace, due to their proven performance and life. He also pointed out that megawatt-size Li-ion batteries will require the use of many series-parallel strings that will be difficult to control and monitor. In the end he concluded by stating that not all applications are meant for Li-ion and that today’s Lead-Acid and Ni-Cad batteries will remain viable well into the future.

8

Storm Copper Components – On the left is Joe Radecki beside Charlene Miller and Dan Kitts.

Making Li-ion Safe Through Thermal Management

by Greg Albright, director of product development, AllCell Technologies

This paper discusses the technical aspects of how new Phase change materials / graphite mixtures can be used to prevent thermal runaway in Li-ion batteries. Greg began by describing how Li-ion batteries have revolutionized the portable electronics industry by offering higher energy density and specific energy than other battery chemistries. He then went on to say that the down-sides of this technology are their cost and a tendency to go into thermal runaway and even catch fire. An internal short circuit or the formation of metallic lithium will generate excess heat, and if the heat is produced faster than it can be dissipated, the cell will vent, leak, smoke, produce flames and even rapidly disassemble (a nice way of saying ‘explode’). Once one cell in the pack has overheated, the heat is transferred to other (good) cells in the pack, cascading in a process that is called “thermal runaway”. The consequences of Li-ion battery thermal runaway are manifested in the form of electric vehicle fires, laptop explosions, cell phone injuries and even airplane crashes. The new LiFePO4 cathodes have a lower propensity for thermal runaway, but according to Greg Albright it is not “zero”.

9b

LaMarche Manufacturing Co. – In the photograph from left to right are Don Henry, Vance Persons, Judy LaMarche, Raj Dhiman and Rick Rutkowski.

The concept that AllCell Technologies is proposing to use PCM’s (phase change materials) in the battery pack to stop the overheated single cell from turning into a dangerous case of thermal runaway. A PCM is a mixture of paraffins and esters that are used commercially for heat dissipation and cooling. As the paraffin (wax) melts, the heat is absorbed and dissipated. The proprietary AllCell concept involves mixing graphite with the PCM to help improve the heat dissipating ability of the PCM through better thermal conductivity of the matrix. A Li-ion battery system was modeled by NREL (National Renewal Energy Laboratory) that involved a 20-cell pack. The temperature of one cell was theoretically elevated and the model demonstrated how the thermal cascade turned into a thermal runaway situation in the pack. The modeling was then repeated after adding the PCM/Graphite mixture between the cells in the battery pack. The model demonstrated the effectiveness of the PCM in limiting the heat to the one overheated cell as did subsequent abuse testing in actual battery packs.

Low Aspect Ratio VRLA Cell for High Power and Long Life in Rack-Mounted UPS Applications

by Dr. George Brilmyer, HighWater Innovations, LLC

My paper began with a discussion of the UPS battery market and the necessary attributes of a cost-effective rack-mounted UPS battery. The concept that HighWater is developing is designed to take spiral-wound VRLA batteries to the next level in terms of power and life. This is all being done through the implementation of a low aspect ratio cell design that features very short grids (for lower electrical resistance) and an open central cooling core (for reduced battery operating temperatures). For applications smaller than ~5,000VA, this small amp-hour format will provide the UPS industry with a better option for high-voltage battery packs. Their basic pack design uses single cells that offer the pack assembler the ability to test and match cells. Once in the pack the single cells in the battery are easy to integrate with a BMS (battery management system) thus enabling better system control. Prototype cells have been built and tested using available grid and separator samples with good results. The 6Ah cell (C/3) produced short circuit currents in the range of 900-1,000 amps. Developments are ongoing to optimize grid thickness, material ratios and overall pack weight.

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At the reception are Michael Salokar (Albér) on the left, Allen Byrne (Interstate PowerCare) and Zbig Noworolski (Polytronics Engineering, Ltd.) on the right.

Real World Results with VRLA Batteries in the UPS Environment

by Gregory Ratcliff, director, Operations Liebert Services

Ratcliff presented a comprehensive review of thousands of VRLA stationary batteries in their systems over an 8-year period from 2004-2011. Since this work was initiated, the team has been collecting continuous measurements to track the health of many thousands of large battery systems installed for UPS. Using this and other practices detailed below they have been able to accumulate over 1 billion hours of system availability since 2006 with 100% availability. The data presented was limited to VRLA batteries that were typically in service as 12V units. Typical data collected includes but is not limited to, room temperature, negative post temperature, battery voltage, battery internal resistance and baseline resistance. Ratcliff mentioned that customers whose batteries are being operated at temperatures significantly above 77 degrees F are quickly advised of such, and then each string is brought into temperature compliance. As part of their full end-to-end telemetry gathering system, all remote real-time data is stored in a data base. All data is stored sequentially as notifications are sent when measured values (such as internal resistance) have increased 25% or more over the initial baseline. Alarms are generated when these values exceed 50%. As the battery data is collected it is examined on a monthly basis by a team of battery experts who evaluate the data for each string. The strings are typically 40 units of 12V VRLA or 80 units of the 6V design. Trending results is important and graphical representation helps maintain a high confidence in the remote telemetry data. An on-site visit is used to confirm telemetry measurements when necessary and no strings (or units) are changed without a confirmation by a skilled analyst.

Next year’s Battcon Conference and Trade Show are scheduled to be held May 6-8, 2013 at the Contemporary Resort at Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Contact Jennifer Stryker, email: Jennifer.Stryker@alber.com or Michael Salokar, email: Michael.Salokar@alber.com or call 1-800-851-4632 for more information.