Daimler plans to deploy fuel cells in datacentres

November 29, 2017


Daimler AG is working with IT experts Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Power Innovations (PI) to utilise its latest automotive fuel cell technology as backup power for datacentres.


Daimler, HPE and PI will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to begin the pilot phase next year.


Dr. Steven Hammond from NREL said the partnership will “demonstrate a first of a kind integrated hydrogen fuel cell datacentre concept”.


Daimler presented its pre-production models of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F CELL, which using its latest version of fuel cells, at this year’s International Motor Show in Frankfurt. The Daimler research team is now expanding the use case of the technology.


The project rethinks power generation and incorporates hydrogen storage and fuel cell systems to supply power directly to the racks of computer servers housed in the datacentres.


When power generated by renewable energy exceeds the total electricity demand of the datacentre, the excess power can be used to generate and store hydrogen. The hydrogen enables the fuel cells to provide continuous, sustainable power during the demand increase and power outage.


Daimler said traditional power distribution accounts for 30-40% of total construction costs for a new datacentre, while the fuel cell application could help reduce the cost by negating the need for diesel generators, central uninterruptible power supplies, switchgear, and expensive copper power lines.


Dr. Christian Mohrdieck, fuel cell director at Daimler AG and CEO of NuCellSys, a Daimler wholly owned subsidiary, said: “The maturity of automotive fuel cell systems is unquestioned today. They are ready for everyday use and constitute a viable option for the transportation sector.


However, the opportunities for hydrogen beyond the mobility sector – energy, industrial and residential sectors – are versatile and require the development of new strategies. Economies of scale and therefore modularisation are important challenges.”


A study by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is quoted as saying, the US datacentre market is set to consume an estimated 140 billion kwh of electricity per year by 2020, equivalent to the annual output of about 50 power plants, emitting nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year.


HPE is set to integrate fuel cell power systems with its current IT infrastructure solutions, including the HPE Apollo 6000 Gen10, HPE SGI 8600, and other HPE platforms, said Daimler.


HPE’s vice president and general manager Bill Mannel commented, “Rapidly escalating power demands are putting pressure on traditional power delivery solutions. The use of Daimler fuel cells for continuous and backup power solutions will allow us to explore new, sustainable, cost-effective and rapid methods to power our customers’ datacentres.”


Robert L. Mount, the president of PI, a power generation and management solutions provider, said, “The datacentre is just the first stop on our journey to fundamentally changing how we harness renewable energy. Within a very short timeframe, we can achieve our vision of a safer and renewable future for all of our customers - mostly notably our military and homeland security markets.”

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