A consortium of seven organizations is looking to develop a fuel cell platform for data centers, as a more sustainable alternative to generator sets and grid power.
The partnership includes Equinix, one of the world’s largest data center operators, alongside critical infrastructure giant Vertiv, sustainable data center specialist InfraPrime, Italian utility Snam, German fuel cell manufacturer SOLIDpower, TEC4FUELS research center, and RISE – the research institute of Sweden.
The EcoEdge PrimePower (styled ‘E2P2’) project is funded by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a European Union initiative launched earlier this month as part of a €22 billion package of industrial partnerships.
Despite the name, the first generation cells will not be based on hydrogen, and will instead use natural gas for fuel.
“We are proud to see that the E2P2 project will provide clean fuel cell-based applications for the decarbonization of data centers within a solid consortium gathering fuel cell providers, system integrators as well as data center operators and energy utilities,” said Bart Biebuyck, executive director for Clean Hydrogen Partnership.
“Projects such as E2P2 are absolutely essential in offering solutions to untap markets with great potential and contribute to our ambitious EU climate targets.”
Blazing a trail
The E2P2 project aims to develop a real world proof-of-concept demonstrating that fuel cells can serve as economic and resilient primary power solutions for data centers.
The partners will work to integrate solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) based on natural gas with existing uninterruptible power supply systems and lithium-ion batteries, with the resulting system deployed and tested at an Equinix facility in Milan, Italy.
Participants hope to develop the open standard for fuel cell applications to pave the way toward commercialization of fuel cell energy across data centers in Europe.
“This decade is undeniably focused on building a future that is environmentally sustainable,” said Dr Jon Summers, scientific lead in data centers at RISE.
“We all know that digitization and data centers are key elements of this future, where innovation is at the heart of our journey to our global 2030 goals. As researchers at RISE, we are invested to be a strong part of the E2P2 team, to push the technology envelope and to transparently demonstrate new sustainable approaches of prime power for the future digital infrastructure.”
Equinix is no stranger to fuel cell deployments – no fewer than 15 of its facilities have been equipped with fuel cells from Bloom Energy, with a reported total capacity of more than 37 megawatts. And yet, Bloom has struggled to build a functioning business, beset by executive departures and an accounting scandal.