Automotive fuel cells power data centers

November 13, 2017 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
At the Supercomputing Conference in Denver this week, automaker Daimler, together with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPW) and other partners, will demonstrate the application of fuel cells for stationary power supply systems.

At the past IAA motor show in September, Daimler presented a production-ready vehicle with fuel cell drive. The fuel cells of the current generation are to be 40 percent more powerful and 30 percent smaller than those of the previous generation. With its subsidiary NuCellSys and in cooperation with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Power Innovations (PI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the company has now developed a solution for the use of such energy sources in stationary power supply systems.

Automotive fuel cell systems today are considered suitable for everyday use and represent a promising option for the mobility sector. “But the potential of hydrogen beyond the automotive industry - for example, energy, industrial and home solutions - is diverse and requires the development of new strategies. Scale effects and modularization are important topics," says Christian Mohrdieck, head of fuel cells at Daimler AG and managing director of the Daimler subsidiary NuCellSys. 

Data centers, on the other hand, are among the largest energy consumers in the new economy - with significant growth in consumption. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the power requirements of data centers in the U. S. are estimated to increase to 140 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year by 2020, which corresponds to the annual production of about 50 power plants and an annual CO2 emission of about 100 million tons. The increasing energy demand needs to be balanced by a sustainable, environmentally friendly energy supply. Fuel cells are a promising technology in this area. No other energy technology offers such high reliability, modular scalability and all the advantages of renewable energies without being dependent on the conventional energy market, Daimler claims.

 

Fuel cell systems produce electricity continuously while providing a constant supply of hydrogen. As with battery systems, the technology is based on an electrochemical reaction, but fuel cells and hydrogen offer the advantage of scalable energy. Low emission rates and noise levels as well as the signifiacntly reduced space requirement make fuel cells a good choice for micro-networks in data centers. Combined with low maintenance and high cost efficiency, fuel cells thus meet the high energy storage requirements of today's data centers.