Equinix leads consortium that's building fuel cells to power data centers

Seven organizations are looking to develop a fuel cell platform for data centers.

A heart-shaped leaf lies on a circuit board. [Green IT / environmental impact / climate change]
Weerapatkiatdumrong / Getty Images

A partnership of seven organizations, including data center giant Equinix, announced plans to build fuel cells to power data centers. The group of mostly European companies is funded by a European Union clean energy initiative.

Along with Equinix, the partners consist of infrastructure giant Vertiv, sustainable data center specialist InfraPrime, Italian utility Snam, German fuel cell manufacturer SOLIDpower, TEC4FUELS research center, and a research institute from Sweden called RISE.

The project is called EcoEdge PrimePower (E2P2) and is funded by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a European Union initiative launched earlier this month with total funding of nearly $25 billion. E2P2 will get roughly $2.8 million of that.

The E2P2 project is a proof-of-concept initiative aiming to develop and demonstrate low-environmental-impact fuel cells that provide economic and resilient prime power solutions for data centers. Equinix will deploy and test the experimental E2P2 fuel cell platform at a dedicated space within one of its Milan, Italy, data centers.

The project will integrate solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology and lithium-ion batteries to provide resilient and clean primary power to data center deployments and other critical infrastructure.

Despite being funded by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, the first generation of power cells will not be based on hydrogen. They will use natural gas for fuel. Using natural gas will eventually pave the way for the use of green hydrogen for fuel cells application, for both backup and prime power systems.

"The E2P2 project enables us to demonstrate a novel architecture for power generation, distribution and storage; support a broader transition from natural gas to sustainable hydrogen; and support our goal of operating a climate neutral business by 2030," said Justin Dustzadeh, chief technology officer at Equinix, in a statement.

Growing interest in energy storage

Fuel cells are nothing new to data centers. Equinix has some experience with fuel cell deployments; 15 of its facilities in the U.S. have been equipped with fuel cells from Bloom Energy, with a total capacity of more than 37 megawatts.

Nevada-based data center operator Switch is going the solar route and storing the energy in Tesla batteries. But it has the option of going solar since it is in Nevada, where the sun is out almost every day and they have the land for the acres needed for solar panels. Most data center operators don’t have that option.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)