(September 03) /PRNewswire/ -- During every rolling blackout and power outage like the recent one, the lights may go out, but many other critical operations are uninterrupted because of the electrical power supplied by back- up systems of lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries provide quiet, pollution-free emergency power for a wide range of critical operations including air traffic control towers, hospitals, banks and financial centers, railroad crossings and military installations.
Telephones are one of the most visible examples: when the electricity goes out, the telephones stay on because virtually every major telephone company in the world uses lead-acid batteries as backup power to keep telephone systems -- including cell phones and two-way radios -- working during power outages. The lead batteries take over the electrical load instantly, without interruption of service. It was the electrical power supplied backup lead battery systems that allowed viewing audiences across the world to see network TV reporters in New York, for example, filing their reports on cell phones for two to four hours after the outage.
Every major airline depends on backup systems of lead-acid batteries and redundant systems of generators to protect reservation, pilot and aircraft maintenance data. Banks and financial institutions depend on lead batteries to keep the computers running so that account and transaction information is preserved until the computer networks can be shut down in an orderly manner. In environmentally sensitive manufacturing operations, lead-acid batteries keep the pollution control systems operating until the plant can be shut down.
Lead batteries play an important daily role at electric utilities, as well. "Were it not for lead-acid batteries, we probably would have power outages every day because the electric utility companies couldn't handle rapid fluctuations in the demand for electricity," said Keith Wandell, president of Battery Council International (BCI). BCI is a not for profit organization that represents the international lead-acid battery manufacturing and recycling industry.
Thomas Edison's first central electric generating station, built in New York City in 1882, suffered many mechanical failures from sudden fluctuations of the load on the generating machines. Lead-acid batteries came to the rescue then, delivering large amounts of electricity for short periods of time. They are still used for the same purpose today by electric utilities all over the world.
At a recycling rate of 97.1 percent (or 10.5 billion pounds) of spent battery lead, the lead-acid battery remains as the nation's most highly recycled consumer product.
"21st century life as we know it would be impossible without lead-acid batteries. Our products dramatically affect everyday life whether the AC power is on or off," said Wandell.