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Caterpillar has demonstrated the validity of large-format hydrogen fuel cells by using them to supply backup power at Microsoft’s data centers.
Caterpillar has successfully collaborated with Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to demonstrate the feasibility of deploying large-format hydrogen fuel cells to supply sustainable backup power for data centers. The technology demonstration provided insight on the capabilities of fuel cell systems to power multi-MW data centers, guaranteeing power supply to meet 99.99% uptime requirements.
"This project's success provides an opportunity for hyperscale providers to drive innovations in the sustainability of power generation technologies," said Sean James, Senior Director of Data Center Research at Microsoft. "The research and findings of the hydrogen fuel cell demonstration will help us towards our goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030."
It was conducted in a challenging environment and validated the hydrogen fuel cell power system’s performance at a height of 6,086 ft. above sea level in below-freezing conditions. The demonstration simulated a 48-hour backup power event at a Microsoft data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in which a hydrogen fuel cell was integrated into the data center electrical plant to support critical load.
Caterpillar provided a microgrid controller to operate two power grid stabilization (PGS) 1260 battery energy storage systems (BESS) and the 1.5 MW hydrogen fuel cell. Caterpillar led the project through providing the overall system integration, power electronics, and microgrid controls that form the primary structure of the hydrogen power solution.
The demonstration project is supported and partially funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) under the H2@Scale initiative, which brings stakeholders together to accelerate low-cost hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilization in various energy markets. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory analyzed safety, techno-economics, and greenhouse gas emissions during the demonstration.
"We see the completion of this demonstration as an important proof point of the reliability and durability of Ballard's fuel cells in providing zero-emission backup power for data centers," said David Mucciacciaro, Chief Commercial Officer of Ballard Power Systems. "We are excited about the ability of our products to meet the critical power needs of data center customers in this rapidly growing sector."