Microsoft used fuel cells to power a data center for two days in a row
Company is exploring how clean technology can be used to power more aspects of its operations
The Microsoft announced on Monday that hydrogen fuel cells fueled a row of your datacenter servers for 48 consecutive hours , bringing the company to its goal of becoming “carbon negative” by 2030. The company is exploring how clean technology could be used to fuel more aspects of its operations.
The technology giant outlined plans in January to finally eliminate its carbon dependency by 2030. Although Microsoft had already eliminated most of its dependence on fossil fuels, it still had some diesel-powered backup generators in Azure data centers, according to a company statement.
Diesel is expensive, while the costs of hydrogen fuel cells have fallen, so Microsoft employees decided to test hydrogen fuel cells as a replacement for it.
The idea of exploring hydrogen fuel cells originated in 2018, when researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, used a proton membrane hydrogen fuel cell (PEM) to power a computer rack. . Mark Monroe, a leading infrastructure engineer on the Microsoft team for advanced datacenter development, said his team watched a demonstration and was intrigued by the technology.
Monroe’s team developed a 250-kilowatt fuel cell system, enough to power a complete row of datacenter servers, and in September 2019 it was installed by Power Innovations in a datacenter near Salt Lake City, Utah. In June, the system underwent a 48-hour test. The team now plans to test a 3-megawatt fuel system, which matches the size of current diesel-powered backup generators.
It is possible that an Azure datacenter could be equipped and run entirely on fuel cells, a hydrogen storage tank and an electrolyte that converts water molecules to hydrogen and oxygen, said Monroe. These systems could be integrated into the power grid to provide load balancing services.
As Microsoft continues to develop hydrogen fuel technology, it could eventually serve as a model for the use of hydrogen fuel cells elsewhere.
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