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

An association 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 clean energy initiative of the European Union.

Together with Equinix, the partners consist of infrastructure giant Vertiv, sustainable data center specialist InfraPrime, Italian company Snam, German fuel cell manufacturer SOLIDpower, research center TEC4FUELS, and a Swedish research institute 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 a total funding of nearly $ 25 billion. E2P2 will get roughly $ 2.8 million from that.

The E2P2 project is a proof-of-concept initiative that aims to develop and demonstrate low environmental impact fuel cells that provide cost-effective and robust primary power solutions for data centers. Equinix will deploy and test the experimental E2P2 fuel cell platform in a dedicated space within one of its data centers in Milan, Italy.

The project will integrate solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology and lithium-ion batteries to provide clean and robust 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 as fuel. The use of natural gas will eventually pave the way for the use of green hydrogen for fuel cell application, both for backup and primary power systems.

“The E2P2 project enables us to demonstrate a novel architecture for energy 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. Equinix official, in a statement.

Growing interest in energy storage

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

Switch, the Nevada-based data center operator, goes the solar route and stores the power in Tesla batteries. But you have the option of using solar power since you are in Nevada where the sun is out almost every day and they have the land for the acres needed for the solar panels. Most data center operators don’t have that option.

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