Microsoft To Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Data Centers - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Distributed Energy Resources, Sourcing Renewables  -  November 23, 2021

Microsoft To Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Data Centers

Microsoft’s data centers will receive backup power in a new three-year project through a collaboration with Caterpillar Inc. and Ballard Power Systems. 

The project will demonstrate a power system incorporating large-format hydrogen fuel cells to produce reliable and sustainable backup power. The project is supported and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the [email protected] initiative and backed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

“At Caterpillar, we focus on supporting our customers with reliable, resilient and economical power solutions while achieving their climate-related goals," said Jason Kaiser, vice president for Caterpillar's Electric Power Division in a statement. "This hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project enables us to collaborate with industry leaders to take a large step toward commercially viable power solutions that also support our customers in making their operations more sustainable.”

Caterpillar is providing the overall system integration, power electronics, and controls that form the central structure of the power solution which will be fueled by low-carbon-intensity hydrogen. Microsoft is hosting the demonstration project at a company data center in Quincy, Washington, while Ballard is supplying an advanced hydrogen fuel cell module. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is performing analyses on safety, techno-economics, and GHG impacts.

"We continue to invest in research and advanced development in hydrogen fuel cells as one of the various pathways toward our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030," said Christian Belady, distinguished engineer and vice president, advanced development, cloud operations + innovation at Microsoft. "This latest project with Caterpillar will provide valuable insights into how to leverage hydrogen fuel cells for backup power in our datacenters at scale."

Caterpillar’s experts in advanced power technologies, controls, and system integration are working alongside Microsoft experts in data center design and Ballard experts in fuel cell design to demonstrate a 1.5 MW backup power delivery and control system that would meet or exceed the expectations set by current diesel engine systems.

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