Hydrogen fuel cell testing underway for Microsoft data center backup power

Hydrogen fuel cell testing underway for Microsoft data center backup power

August 5, 2020 0 By John Max

The tech giant is hopeful that it would provide a meaningful kickstart to a clean energy economy.

A new hydrogen fuel test is looking into H2 for Microsoft data center zero emission backup power. The first wave of testing managed to power a datacenter row for 48 consecutive hours using the renewable energy.

Microsoft announced the results of the initial test at the start of the week.

The use of hydrogen fuel cells for backup power at the Microsoft data center locations is a part of a broader effort to become carbon negative by 2030. As a part of the effort toward reaching that target and to boost the pace of global abandonment of fossil fuels, the tech giant is also seeking to eliminate its use of diesel fuel by 2030.

Diesel fuel isn’t one of the company’s main contributors to carbon emissions. In fact, it represents only about 1 percent of the emissions generated by the tech firm. The reason is that its primary use is in Azure datacenters where, as is the case among most cloud providers worldwide, the backup power generators are diesel powered. These generators make it possible to provide continuous operations in case of power outages and other types of electricity disruptions.

That said, the company is moving to eliminate fossil fuel from the Microsoft data center power mix.

“They are expensive. And they sit around and don’t do anything for more than 99% of their life,” explained Microsoft datacenter advanced development team principal infrastructure engineer Mark Monroe.

The cost of hydrogen fuel cells has been falling rapidly over the last few years. It has reached the point that it is now considered to be an affordable alternative to backup generators powered by diesel.

“And the idea of running them on green hydrogen fits right in with our overall carbon commitments,” added Monroe.

Monroe also explained that the Microsoft data center hydrogen fuel strategy goes beyond simply replacing diesel. He stated that an Azure datacenter equipped with a hydrogen storage tank, fuel Microsoft data center - Microsoft logo on buildingcells and an electrolyzer that converts water into hydrogen and oxygen could be connected to the electricity grid to offer load balancing services.