$2.82m allotted for low-carbon fuel cell production

Publish December 16, 2021
oil and gas

Vertiv, a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions, has announced the Clean Hydrogen Partnership will provide EUR2.5 million ($2.82 million) to help fund a project to develop low-carbon fuel cells to power data centres.

It is hoped this could reduce carbon emissions from operations by up to 100%. The EcoEdge PrimePower (E2P2) project is a novel proof-of-concept initiative aiming to develop and demonstrate low environmental impact fuel cells that provide economic and resilient prime power solutions for the data centre environment.

A consortium of seven companies—Equinix, InfraPrime, RISE, Snam, SolidPower, TEC4FUELS and Vertiv—will explore an innovative integration of solid-oxide fuel cells with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology and lithium-ion batteries to provide resilient and clean primary power to data centre deployments and other critical infrastructure.

Implementing natural gas solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) as a prime power application will be instrumental to pave the way for the use of green hydrogen for fuel cells application, for both backup and prime power systems.

“Digitalisation and the data centre industry are growing at an increasing pace and thus it is even more vital to fast-track our journey towards an environmentally sustainable future,” said Giordano Albertazzi, president for Vertiv in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “This can only be made possible by developing clean, innovative technologies such as fuel-cell solutions to provide sustainable power for the digital world. Vertiv is proud to actively contribute to the E2P2 proof-of-concept initiative and looks forward to provide next-generation power solutions to its global customers.”

The E2P2 project is the latest in a series of initiatives Vertiv has conducted around sustainability and the wider Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) arena. Vertiv is also part of the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance (SDIA) and the European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) and contributes to the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact with the aim to meet the European Commission’s goal for climate-neutral data centres by 2030.

The E2P2 project is part of the company’s effort to prioritise and support the development of clean, sustainable and renewable power solutions for application across the data centre industry.

GREENER FUTURE

Fuel cells are recognised as a cleaner and quieter power solution that can alleviate demand on urban power grids. They can be deployed on-site at a data centre campus, and operate using natural gas, biogas, LPG or green hydrogen—which can be transported and distributed over existing gas networks.

The E2P2 project marks an exciting step toward significant carbon reduction, whilst still meeting requirements for a highly resilient critical power supply to data centres. At the heart of this vision, is a market-oriented approach that integrates innovation and stakeholder engagement to maximise acceptance and uptake opportunities of stationary fuel cells as reliable, efficient and decentralised prime power sources for other industrial scale applications.

The consortium hopes to develop the authoritative open standard for fuel cell applications to pave the way toward commercialisation of fuel cell energy for data centres in Europe, demonstrating the industry’s potential role in achieving EU carbon reduction targets.

E2P2 is a joint project from Equinix, InfraPrime, RISE, Snam, SolidPower, TEC4FUELS and Vertiv, partially funded with a grant by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, from the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission.

The consortium will engage with the organisations that work on developing European best practices and standards to facilitate high-level concept design and interface definitions.

The E2P2 project goals are aligned to the objectives of the European Commission to rapidly accelerate the application of fuel cells to power the needs of energy intensive sectors while achieving a greener grid.

E2P2 aims to achieve multiple environmental objectives, including showcasing a real-world proof of concept of 24/7 low-carbon power that does not rely on diesel generators and supports the growing hydrogen and renewable energy economy across Europe.

The intention is for the resulting units to replace the traditional power supply and generators, with additional redundancies built in to maintain uptime standards.

Vertiv will leverage its extensive experience in AC power systems as well as in prefabricated modular solutions for data centres to design and develop an integrated fuel-cell power module, including the Vertiv Liebert EXL S1 uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Close collaboration between the Vertiv AC Power line of business based in Italy and its Integrated Modular Solutions line of business based in Croatia will be key to engineer an all-in-one 100 kW module as a proof-of-concept by 2023, with the final goal of developing a commercially viable product that can support multiple MWs of critical load and facilitate a greener future for data centres worldwide.

In parallel, Vertiv is also working with key global customers to develop new hydrogen-based generators that will help replace diesel generators.

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, Clean Hydrogen Partnership said: “With its ongoing support of research and development of fuel cells for stationary applications, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership (previously FCH JU) managed to set a strong basis for European industry to lead in the deployment of new technologies. We are proud to see that the E2P2 project will provide clean fuel cell-based applications for the decarbonisation of data centres within a solid consortium gathering fuel cell providers, system integrators as well as data centre operators and energy utilities. Projects such as E2P2 are absolutely essential in offering solutions to un-tap markets with great potential and contribute to our ambitious EU climate targets.”

Eugene Bergen Henegouwen, President, EMEA, Equinix, stated: “The E2P2 project hopes to be a breakthrough in making data centres more environmentally sustainable worldwide. Equinix has committed to mitigating our environmental impact, and this project provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the use of an innovative, clean, primary energy source. We hope it will make a considerable impact towards reaching our global commitment of 100% renewable energy and climate neutrality by 2030, as well as advancing our industry’s sustainability goals. It’s important we support the growth of the market in Europe for clean and reliable on-site power.”

Dr Jon Summers, Scientific Lead in Data Centres, RISE, said: “This decade is undeniably focused on building a future that is environmentally sustainable. We all know that digitisation and data centres are key elements of this future, where innovation is at the heart of our journey to our global 2030 goals. As researchers at RISE, we are invested to be a strong part of the E2P2 team, to push the technology envelope and to transparently demonstrate new sustainable approaches of prime power for the future digital infrastructure.”

Susanna Kass and Dr Alberto Ravagni, Co-Founders, InfraPrime, said: “The E2P2 clean energy standard is an inflection point for clean cloud providers to achieve Carbon Neutral (Positive) cloud infrastructure on a global scale. InfraPrime is proud to lead in this project on the creation of an open industry standard to support the global adoption of eco edge prime power solutions with fuel cells across clean cloud infrastructure, to support industries and applications at hyperscale.”

Cosma Panzacchi, Executive Vice President Hydrogen, Snam, said: “We are happy to contribute our know-how to the E2P2 alliance to help tackle the issue of powering urban data centres with clean and competitive energy solutions. The concept of connecting fuel cells to gas networks to power resilient urban and edge data centres overcomes the need to have backup generation in such areas, thus reducing emissions as well as noise impact. This project is part of Snam's efforts to foster the use of hydrogen to decarbonise economic sectors, leveraging existing gas networks and sustainable technologies like hydrogen-ready fuel cells.”

Dr Klaus Lucka, Managing Director, TEC4FUELS, said: “TEC4FUELS is a competence centre for sustainable liquid and gaseous energy carriers (fuels) and operating fluids in technical systems. For the operation of the fuel cells, the company contributes its know-how to the research project in the supply and purification of the process gas medium and water. In addition, TEC4FUELS is developing a sensor-based fluid condition monitoring system to monitor gas and water quality. The aim is to help reduce system-related greenhouse gas emissions by optimising the operational reliability and service life of technical components and increasing the efficiency of this subsystem.”

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