Hassle-Free Remote Monitoring of
Lithium Backup Power Solutions
For Telecom Fixed and Mobile Sites,
Power Utility Substations and Data Centers
The lithium ferro phosphate (LiFePO 4) batteries, or LFP for short, are the preferred technology over standard Lithium-ion. The key difference is that LFP batteries have the capability of delivering a constant voltage and also possessing a comparatively higher charge cycle in the range of 2000-3000. LFP batteries are environmentally safe and structurally stable. They have a lower energy density and low discharge rate. They do not heat up easily and are relatively cooler than other batteries. The chemistry of the battery saves it from thermal runaway and, hence they are considered safe for home use and are a sustainable alternative to VRLA batteries.2
For standby power backup applications, multiple LFP batteries will be grouped to generate the traditional three to eight hours of reserve time in 48V telecom applications. In data center applications, the LFP batteries will be grouped in series to reach the desired UPS operating voltage, and these groups can be paralleled to reach the desired reserve time.
Furthermore, thanks to the willingness of pioneered telecom and UPS users to embark in the new era of standby backup power by accepting to challenge their actual habits and to modernize their corporate practices in sight of an exciting and rewarding journey ahead while paving the way for others to jump on the bandwagon.
LFP Battery key advantages when compared to VRLA Battery
- Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) with longer battery lifecycle and soft end-of-life;
- Truly maintenance-free operation and fewer replacements;
- Smaller and lighter, more versatile usage and applications;
- High energy density footprint and no gassing concerns; and
- Embedded BMS monitoring (Battery Management System).
LFP batteries can now operate safely and dependably due to their embedded intelligent Battery Management System, BMS for short. The BMS manages the lithium battery pack using advanced firmware and hardware. It protects the battery against abnormal conditions such as high-low operating temperatures, over discharges, over recharges and shorted cells. Moreover, the BMS provides real-time data on:
- Operating and status conditions for remote maintenance purposes and analytics;
- Battery remaining capacity (Ah) and precise runtime estimates during commercial power failure; and
- State of charge and state-of-health for simple life cycle management.
Furthermore, most LFP battery vendors provide a communication port to communicate with the BMS and access the data. The vast majority of BMS come by default equipped with a serial RS-485 running Modbus RTU protocol. Modbus RTU is a simple client/server architecture that allows multiple batteries (clients) to be interconnected to the same server (Protocol Gateway Device). On the other hand, very few BMS offer CAN bus protocol which is message based and derived from the automotive industry. CAN bus utilizes a standard two-wire transmission where Modbus RTU on RS-485 can function on a two-wire or four-wire depending on the BMS vendor. Very few BMS will offer an optional Ethernet connection running either ASCII (vendor proprietary protocol), Modbus TCP or SNMP protocols. Some recent lithium batteries offer an app that installs on your phone and connects to the BMS using Bluetooth limiting the access to data with one battery at a time and within range of the BMS. Thus, this requires a truck roll every time which is not efficient and not good for your GHG reduction efforts.
How to remotely access the valuable BMS Data
Over the years, Modbus has become a de facto communication protocol commonly used to connect smart industrial devices together, making this a reliable, inexpensive and open-standard way to network and communicate with multiple BMS on a single cable. However, whether it is running on serial RS-485 or Ethernet cable, the drawback with Modbus protocol is that it is not meant to directly interface with humans.
The same can be alleged for Modbus TCP or SNMP compatible BMS where a specialized software is then required to extract the data from the BMS. But the major drawback is when you come to realize that in many cases, multiple LFP battery modules are required to achieve the expected reserve time for each location; therefore, multiple BMS will each require a network connection with each a static IP address – not necessarily what you were looking for! Additionally, most IT departments will restrict the usage of devices not compliant with corporate network security.
Therefore, in order to remotely access the lithium battery’s BMS data available to you, one will need a protocol gateway used to translate the BMS protocol and physical layer to a secure network connection proposing an HTTPS interface or secure SNMP for integration to your current Network Management Systems. Nevertheless, not all protocol gateways are designed the same.
A secure, flexible yet compatible solution to remotely connect with the integrated BMS
You may have a need to remotely access the BMS data every now and then or to perform an integration with your Network Management Systems such as Power and Cooling Asset Management Software, Network Alarm Management Software (NOC), or Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools.
Multitel’s advanced multi-protocol iO Gateway will enable you to centralize all of the BMS critical data onto a single, yet secure IP connection, meaning that you will remove the need for multiple network connections and IP addresses almost ending the IT staff’s involvement and ensuring compliance with the corporate network security requirements.
Here are 10 things you should consider when connecting with the LFP Battery BMS
- Look for an advanced multi-protocol conversion gateway – Do not limit yourself to a basic (one-to-one) protocol converter as you will eventually need as many protocol converters as you have LFP batteries. The Multitel iO Gateway is able to convert multiple Modbus RTU and multiple Modbus TCP simultaneously to secure HTTPS for remote visibility, or SNMPv3 for DCIM data polling or SNMP trap management integration to the NOC.
- Extensive compatibility – The iO Gateway is flexible and easily configurable making it simple to adapt to any vendor’s LFP battery and other smart industrial devices such as UPS, DC power plants, ATS or generator controllers, power meters, fuel management system and building automation systems (BAS) in slave or transparent mode of operations.
- Modbus RTU to SNMP v1/v2c/v3
- Modbus TCP to SNMP v1/v2c/v3
- SNMP v1/v2c to SNMPv3
- SNMP v1/v2c/v3 to Modbus RTU or Modbus TCP
- Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP or SNMP v1/v2c/v3 to HTTPS
- Global remote visibility – Most basic protocol converters will only handle a minimal number of data points limiting your battery monitoring capabilities, and some converters may not offer a means to view the real-time data values as they are refreshed. The iO Gateway can support 2500 data points, offer a means to label your batteries and data points, and enable real-time visibility of polled data values.
- IT Network Security Compliancy – It is important to consider a protocol gateway that can provide a secure connection in order to meet your IT network security requirements. Thus, a gateway that can support HTTPS, SNMPv3 can allow for this. As IT network security requirements snowball, having a gateway already with centralized authentication such as LDAP makes you bulletproof for the future.
- Trap Enrichments/NOC integration: The iO Gateway can intercept an SNMP trap from the BMS and enrich the trap with more information about the LFP battery name, location and other properties.
- Passthrough – For a BMS with an embedded web server, placing a protocol converter in front of the BMS Ethernet port will take away the remote access to the web interface limiting the ability to monitor and service the battery for configuration or maintenance purposes.
- IP Address Management – LFP batteries with an Ethernet connection are bridged to an unmanaged IP switch and are assigned a static IP address. The iO Gateway will store the IP address of each battery, continuously checking the communication sanity. The iO Gateway enables you to label each battery making it easy to visualize connectivity settings and status.
- Data polling responsiveness – Make certain the protocol conversion device has the processing power required to provide the response time you require. The iO Gateway CPU speed and memory specifications enable it to handle large amounts of data and is quick to respond to an SNMP Manager request making the processing of an SNMP trap effortless.
- Telecom industrial grade specifications – Network Operators should treat the protocol gateway as a critical OT device. Thus, look for redundant power inputs, extended operating temperature ranges, fast 1Gb Ethernet connection, two software configurable RS-485 communication ports which supports two-wire and four-wire transmission, support with remote firmware upgrades, etc.
- Easy Setup and commissioning – Look for a protocol gateway that saves valuable time for field technicians, a protocol gateway designed for use in a telecom environment that will not require opening the enclosure to access internal dip switches for Modbus configuration, and lastly, look for the possibility to download a configuration file with all your operating parameter setup.
Who benefits from the remote connectivity to LFP Batteries?
Field Operations: Having access to the BMS will enable field technicians or subject matter experts to keep an eye on the maintenance free batteries. It can also enable you to determine if a truck roll is necessary or not, saving dispatch. Although the LFP batteries are maintenance free, having access to the battery state-of-health parameters and other valuable information enables remote maintenance capabilities.
Network Surveillance: Some lithium-ion battery vendors provide a few dry contacts to enable alarm conditions to be wired to the remote telemetry unit (RTU). However, having a connection to the BMS of the battery will enable a more detailed status condition and prevent dispatch. Also, during power outages, some BMS calculates the remaining time providing an accurate fuel gauge eliminating the guess work.
Network Engineering: Having access to battery data provides a means to study the behavior of the LFP battery under your network real-life conditions; it provides knowledgeable insights and intelligence data to help you justify and confirm your business decisions.
Provisioning/Planners: Having access to the battery’s data and the alarms provides a means to justify replacements under warranty. It can help you select the best product for your applications from a wide selection and choice of vendors. Also, the battery SoH and remaining capacity values can be used to determine when it is time to plan a battery End of Life (EoL) replacement.
Sustainability Group: Most green initiatives will require to reduce the carbon footprint, therefore, reducing truck rolls. Having remote access to the BMS can enable network operation managers to prevent truck rolls to remote site locations by having the field technicians remotely troubleshoot the alarm conditions and solve the issue. A remote inspection of sanity parameters can also eliminate truck rolls.