Batteries are part of the lifeblood of modern industrial civilization. Not only are they a necessity for providing power away from the grid or generators, but they are also a key part of load leveling systems, back-up devices, and power smoothing circuits. Whatever your industry, it's likely that batteries are used extensively. AGM batteries, in particular, are found just about everywhere, so understanding how they work is important whether or not you handle them as part of your day-to-day job.
What are AGM Batteries?
AGM batteries are a type of lead-acid battery. The basic principles behind lead-acid batteries are over 150 years old, but this technology has endured and can be found everywhere from cars to power stations to military vessels. Lead-acid batteries are a form of storage battery, meaning that they are provided with an external charge which they hold onto for later discharge. The simplest lead-acid battery consists of two lead plates (an anode and a cathode) immersed in an electrolyte solution containing sulfuric acid.
One of the primary disadvantages of lead-acid batteries is that water occasionally needs to be added to keep the electrolyte solution wet. Additionally, a damaged battery can release its acid electrolyte, presenting a serious hazard for anyone nearby. Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries solve this problem by using fiberglass mats to absorb the electrolyte. This allows the interior of the battery to be dry, eliminating the need for maintenance and also preventing dangerous accidents if the battery casing is damaged.
Deep Cycle, Dual Purpose, and Starting Batteries
Depending on your particular application for AGM batteries, you are likely to come across three specific types of batteries: deep cycle, dual purpose, and starting batteries. Starting batteries are essentially car batteries. These batteries are designed to discharge a large amount of power all at once and then remain fairly well charged. This makes them well-suited for the sudden burst of energy needed to engage a starter motor, after which they will receive a constant charge from the vehicle's alternator. Batteries of this type are also used in marine and aviation applications.
More common in industrial applications are deep cycle batteries. Unlike starting batteries, these batteries are not designed to discharge a huge amount of energy at once. Instead, they are designed for relatively slow discharges over time. The deep cycle refers to the ability of the battery to discharge most of its stored energy. Starting batteries, on the other hand, should generally not be fully discharged. Dual purpose batteries can work as both starting and deep cycle batteries, and they tend to be found primarily in marine applications.
Industrial Uses for AGM Batteries
Industrial AGM batteries (generally of the deep cycle variety) are commonly found in settings requiring large amounts of power storage or load leveling. Large arrays of AGM batteries are being used at many renewable energy generation facilities, where they can help store excess power to smooth loads and deal with demand when the facility's generation is off-peak. Additionally, the maintenance-free aspects of AGM batteries make them well-suited to areas where routine maintenance is impossible, such as in facilities that are unmanned or remote.