NorthC Datacenters, a large data center operator from the Netherlands delivering colocation services at edge locations, has installed green hydrogen (H2) fuel cells in its new Groningen-based facility in the north of the Netherlands. As a result, CO2 emissions would significantly be reduced. NorthC is looking into whether this hydrogen technology can be used in the rest of the company’s data centers.
In the case of a power outage, data centers often feature several diesel-powered emergency power generators to ensure the availability of the digital services on which modern society relies. Despite the fact that these diesel generators are rarely used, they should be examined on a monthly basis to ensure that they are in good operating order. This method necessitates the use of diesel fuel, which may amount to a significant quantity of diesel.
The 500-kilowatt hydrogen cell module that will be put in the colocation provider’s new data center in Groningen would save tens of thousands of liters of fuel each year. More than 78,000 kilos (78 tons) of CO2 would be produced if this much fuel was burned. That’s the equivalent of 24 automobiles driving the average number of kilometers driven by Dutch individuals every day (32km), according to NorthC, or 20,000 cellphones charged every day for a year. When green hydrogen is burned, just water (H2O) is emitted. As needed, additional hydrogen modules can be added.
By the middle of June, the hydrogen cells in this new data center in Groningen, the Netherlands should be operational.
“The data center industry has a responsibility to ensure that we operate as sustainably as possible. For example, all our regional data centers run entirely on green power,” said Jarno Bloem, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at NorthC Datacenters. “We are also actively engaged in additional sustainability initiatives, such as projects that use the residual heat from our data centers to heat homes and businesses in the area. An important next step is to switch from emergency power generators that run on diesel to sustainable alternatives. We believe that green hydrogen offers the best possibilities in this respect and have therefore entered into a partnership with Nedstack – one of the frontrunners in the field of large hydrogen cells.”
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Green Hydrogen as a Primary Power Supply
Traditional diesel generators are more expensive than the hydrogen cells that will be deployed in the Groningen data center. However, due of quickly rising fuel prices and the continued development and growth of the hydrogen sector – notably in the Groningen region – NorthC anticipates the costs are likely to decline significantly. Furthermore, the hydrogen cells have a service life of 20 years or more. NorthC is studying whether it is practical and cost-effective to retrofit current diesel generators to run on hydrogen. While less efficient than hydrogen fuel cells, which convert hydrogen directly into electricity, this method would cut emissions by more than 80 percent and contribute to long-term sustainability.
“With these hydrogen cells, our data center in Groningen has a European first for emergency power supplies,” added Mr. Bloem. “We are now going to investigate if we can also apply this technology in our other data centers, initially mainly in new branches or expansions of existing branches. The ultimate goal, of course, is to use green hydrogen as a primary power supply, but that is still something to address in the future. An important condition is a drop in the costs of hydrogen. This requires subsidies and an increase in scale. But given the enormous advantages that this form of energy offers, I am convinced that it is just a matter of time.”