The prevalence of unscheduled power outages, often due to the unreliability or maintenance demands of the electricity grid in South Africa, has exposed one of the Achilles’ heels of standby power devices such as uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and inverter-based systems. This is the dramatically shortened lifespan of regular lead-acid batteries (including deep-cycle batteries) when subjected to full depletion on a regular basis.
Now, power provisioning specialist Powermode has released a purpose-designed battery backup system to assist retail organisations to deal effectively with power unreliability.
“Retailers are hard-hit by grid unreliability, confirms Jack Ward, Powermode MD. “Without power, till islands are inoperable, security and lighting systems fail and customers often abandon shopping trolleys when Speedpoint credit card machines do not function.
“Because they are often limited to conventional standby solutions – the use of petrol or diesel generators is either impossible or prohibited – retailers have gravitated to systems that are basically unreliable, being unable to cope with long periods of grid outages,” he says.
“These conventional systems cannot back up critical systems for extended lengths of time; certainly not for the recurring two-to-four-hour outages common in SA which can fully deplete a conventional battery pack. If repeated often enough, the batteries’ life can be severely compromised – reduced to around six months or less in many cases.”
Against this backdrop, Powermode has launched the Q-on LR long-run battery pack which comprises a number of sealed deep cycle VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid) Absorbed Glass Matt batteries. These battery packs can often be retro-fitted to existing UPS systems.
According to Ward, one of the benefits associated with Q-on LR battery packs is Powermode’s three-year guarantee – a ‘first’ for such a system in SA.
“More importantly, the ‘smart’ battery management technology that underpins a Q-on LR battery pack allows it to accommodate variable loads while the performance and efficiency of individual batteries in the pack are monitored and optimised on a 24×7 basis,” he explains.
“This is achieved by a dedicated, computerised battery balancing harness that automatically reports to Powermode’s Operations Centre – via a GSM cellular network – on a wide range of parameters associated with individual batteries in the pack.
“Data streams containing information critical to the well-being of individual batteries, including temperature, state of charge and depth of discharge, are measured on a continual basis, while a tally of the number of discharge/ charge cycles is accurately recorded.
“Battery performance can thus be balanced and equalised and should an individual battery’s operating parameters not meet design specifications or fail for any reason it is flagged for replacement by a Powermode response team, thus ensuring the integrity of the pack,” he says.
According to Ward, the key to battery longevity – and reduced maintenance – lies in a thorough understanding of the status of individual batteries in a multi-battery pack in terms of their duty cycles and load factors.
“The technology featured in the Q-on LR battery management system not only distributes and balances the battery load, discharge and charge regimes across all batteries in the pack, but also takes steps to ensure that no battery is compromised through over-cycling or a malfunction of any kind. Monitoring can be focused on the battery pack in one retail store or networked to include as many sites as there are across a chain of outlets, country-wide.”
He says users who have installed Q-on LR systems find that regular power outages have minimal impact on business. “They are regarded as ‘non-events’.”
Ward adds that in the case of a certain multi-site retail chain equipped with Q-on systems, monitored battery reports show that outages average around 40 hours per month across all outlets. “This would have represented a significant loss of trading time and turn-over, if not for Q-on’s long-run, fully-managed system.”