Powering A Data Center With Methane

T-Systems is using this Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell to power a Munich data center with biomethane.

T-Systems is using this Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell to power part of its Munich data center with biomethane. The system generates 245 kilowatts of power.

Can methane be harnessed to power a data center? Mark Fontecchio at TechTarget has an item this morning about a proposal in Chicopee, Mass. to use methane gas from a local landfill to power a data center. The town’s mayor has reached out to Dow Jones about building a data center in Chicopee, using the biogas potential as a hook. As Mark notes, Google is using landfill gases to power a greenhouse in North Carolina, while Fujifilm has a South Carolina manufacturing plant incorporates methane into its power base.

There’s a working precedent for using biomethane to power a data center. T-Systems is using a “hot module” fuel cell to provide power for a server room in a facility in Munich, Germany, which runs on biogas supplied by a planet in nearby Pliening.

The module, officially known as a Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell, is built by CFC Solutions Gmbh and generates 245 kilowatts of power. During cultivation, the energy crops absorb the same quantity of CO2 that is later released by the data center. T-Systems uses the waste heat from the fuel cell in an absorption cooling cycle. The company describes the Munich operation, which was launched in July 2007, as a “long-term test” to pioneer environmentally friendly data center energy.

The company provides a detailed description of the system and additional photos of the fuel cell and the Munich data center.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Biogas is great but limited, what about just using natural gas to power a fuel cell?Now, the price of electricity for commercial consumers in New England is .14cents per kilowatt. If you used a fuel cell it would be about 10-11cents per kilowatt. If the cap & trade goes through the commercial price per kilowatt could jump to .19-.20cents. Considering how much of a data centers over head is tied to energy cost, I would think this makes sense. Has anyone done research on this???

  2. Dan in Virginia

    The article should mention that CFC Solutions gets their molten carbonate fuel cell stacks from Fuelcell Energy of Danbury CT (USA). Fuelcell Energy has lots of experiance running its DFC300 units (300-350kW ) on biogas, esp. in California. Not only from sewage treatment plants, but from food processing waste too (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, GIll's Onions). So Chicopee could get their fuel cell from right next door.