Microsoft tests its hydrogen fuel cell backup generator

Nov 22, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

In Quincy, Washington, tech giant Microsoft has announced that it is teaming up with Caterpillar and Ballard Power Systems to test its hydrogen fuel cell backup generators in a move towards a more sustainable future. This project accompanies Microsoft’s other backup energy efforts, like the trialling of lithium-ion batteries. 

This research, which is a three-year project, is funded in part by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the H2@Scale initiative. It also has backing from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The project’s aim is to provide power that is “uninterruptible” and supports “99.999 percent uptime requirements.” 

Caterpillar will serve as the prime contractor in the project, while Ballard’s role will be to supply the 1.5 MW ClearGen-II hydrogen fuel cell power generator. 

Commenting about Caterpillar’s role in the project, Jason Kaiser, vice president for Caterpillar’s Electric Power Division, commented: “At Caterpillar, we focus on supporting our customers with reliable, resilient and economical power solutions while achieving their climate-related goals.” 

Adding: “This hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project enables us to collaborate with industry leaders to take a large step toward commercially viable power solutions that also support our customers in making their operations more sustainable.”

Adding to this, Christian Belady, Distinguished Engineer and VP, Advanced Development, Cloud Operations + Innovation at Microsoft, said: “We continue to invest in research and advanced development in hydrogen fuel cells as one of the various pathways toward our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030. This latest project with Caterpillar will provide valuable insights into how to leverage hydrogen fuel cells for backup power in our datacenters at scale.”

Meanwhile, Randy MacEwen, Ballard’s President and CEO, said the project’s results will provide “key insights” into the capability of fuel cell systems “to scale and serve multi-megawatt data centers.” Adding: “The project will also explore the scalability of fuel cell systems powered by low carbon-intensity hydrogen from cost and performance perspectives.”  

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