Microsoft data center uses hydrogen fuel cell backup power from Caterpillar

Microsoft data center uses hydrogen fuel cell backup power from Caterpillar

January 24, 2024 0 By Bret Williams

The collaboration was a demonstration of how the technology can be used reliably and sustainably.

Caterpillar Inc. recently announced the successful results of a collaboration with both Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to show how hydrogen fuel cell technology can be used on a large scale to provide data center backup power.

The demonstration was successful in showing how this power supply is sustainable and reliable.

The companies worked together to use the hydrogen fuel cell demonstration to gain helpful insights into how the units can be used for powering data centers that require several megawatts of energy, ensuring a reliable, steady power supply that will satisfy 99.999 percent of uptime requirements.

The demonstration was held under challenging conditions and confirmed the performance of the H2-based system at 6,086 feet (1,855 meters) above sea level, where the weather was below freezing. The project was a simulation of an event requiring 48 hours of backup power at the Cheyenne, Wyoming Microsoft data center. There, the H2 units were connected to a data center electrical plant for critical load support.

The demonstration used a Caterpillar Microgrid Controller for the operation of two Cat Power Grid Stabilization (PGS) 1260 battery energy storage systems on top of the 1.5 MW H2 fuel cell.

The hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project at the data center was led by Caterpillar.

Caterpillar was the provider of the power electronics, overall system integration, and the microgrid controls that comprised the central H2 power solution structure.

hydrogen fuel cell - Caterpillar company logo on building

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“This successful collaboration with Microsoft and Ballard demonstrates the potential of hydrogen fuel cells to help data centers address their critical power needs while reducing their emissions,” said Caterpillar Electric Power senior vice president Jaime Mineart.

Sustainable power generation

hydrogen news ebook“This project’s success provides an opportunity for hyperscale providers to drive innovations in the sustainability of power generation technologies,” said Microsoft senior director of data center research Sean James. “The research and findings of the hydrogen fuel cell demonstration will help us towards our goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030.”

The hydrogen fuel cell project is partially funded by the US Department of Energy Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (DoE) with support under the H2@Scale initiative.

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