GreenDataNet looking to use retired car batteries to power data centers

March 19, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: GreenDataNet

( —GreenDataNet, a research project sponsored by the European Union, is looking at using batteries from electric or hybrid vehicles as a possible type of power storage for use in conjunction with renewable sources to address the growing power needs of data centers. A web site describing the initiative and its goals has been created and calls attention to the increasing pressure that data centers are putting on power grids.

GreenDataNet notes that approximately 2.5 percent of all electricity currently generated in Europe goes towards running data centers—by 2019, that number is expected to jump to five percent. Fearful that data centers will soon be causing black or brownouts, European Union officials called for a to be undertaken to find out whether data centers could be made more efficient, and whether for them could be found in other ways. That's the mandate for GreenDataNet—they plan to study both software and hardware solutions, which would include developing load balancing systems to shift power needs between centers. More importantly, of course, the project will look to find new ways to provide additional power exclusively to the data centers—one of those is an idea not heard before—using discarded car batteries.

The batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles typically last just fourteen years—after repeated use they hold less charge—not enough for use in a vehicle, but still enough to be used for other purposes. In this case, the idea would be to store power generated by wind and solar farms and make it available to data centers. If viable the idea would solve another problem in the coming years—what to do with all the car batteries that will be piling up as more and more consumers buy electric and .

Demonstrating its willingness to work towards solving power needs, the EU has given GreenDataNet 2.9m euro (another 1.4m will come from other sources). If are eventually used to help provide power from renewable sources, presumably they would be set up in large farms, with new used batteries constantly added, as older ones lose their usefulness and are removed. That still leaves the problem of what to do with the batteries once they are no longer useful, but that might be less of a concern if they can be used, at least for a while, to help keep data centers running.

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1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2014
A battery will go through exponential decay under constant load because the falling capacity causes an increase in cycle frequency, which causes accelerated wear to the battery.

That's why a battery is generally considered dead when its capacity has fallen to 2/3 or 67% because this is approximately the turning point on such an exponential curve after which the battery will soon fail. Depending on the particular battery in question, the remaining total energy that the battery can put through is on the order of 10% of the total.

To put that in proper figures, suppose you have a 10 kWh battery that lasts 1000 cycles to 67% capacity. On a crude approximation, it can put through 8350 kWh before it runs out of cycles and reaches decommission, and about 835 kWh after until it's properly dead.

So the obvious problem is that for any substantial load, you go through old batteries faster than new batteries become old to replace them.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 19, 2014
Continuing on the same line of thought: suppose a single electric vehicle consumes 2 MWh of energy per year, which corresponds to driving 8000 miles a year, for 14 years before decommissioning the battery

The old battery could, under the previous assumptions, store and release 0.2 MWh of energy per year for another 14 years in wait of another old battery to become available.

So the old battery of a single electric car is limited to 23 Watts of continuous throughput, which puts the whole thing in perspective, because with 23 Watts you can barely run a single laptop computer.

To run a desktop computer which requires 230 Watts or thereabouts, entirely on energy put through old car batteries, you'd need the old batteries of ten electric cars and you'd have to replace the one in use every 17 months.

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