Vertiv, Equinix and Others to Lead Hydrogen Fuel Cell Development for Data Centers

Partially funded with an EUR 2.5 million grant by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, from the Horizon 2020 program of the European Commission, this consortium of seven companies in the data center industry including Vertiv and Equinix will start an innovation project named EcoEdge PrimePower (E2P2) to develop hydrogen fuel cells for data centers.

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Vertiv, Equinix, InfraPrime, RISE, Snam, SOLIDpower, and TEC4FUELS together will explore an innovative integration of solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology and lithium-ion batteries. Implementing natural gas SOFC as a primary power source will open the way for the use of green hydrogen in fuel cell systems, both as a backup and primary power source for data centers. It is hoped this will result in reducing carbon emissions from data center operations by up to 100 percent.

The E2P2 project is a revolutionary proof-of-concept program aimed at developing and demonstrating low-emission fuel cells that provide cost-effective and reliable prime power solutions for data centers.

To make high-level concept design and interface definitions easier, the tech consortium will collaborate with organizations that work on defining European best practices and standards.

The E2P2 project goals are in line with the European Commission’s goals of accelerating the use of fuel cells to meet the demands of energy-intensive industries while also establishing a cleaner grid.

E2P2 intends to fulfill a number of environmental goals, including demonstrating a real-world proof of concept for low-carbon electricity that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and does not rely on diesel generators, as well as supporting Europe’s burgeoning hydrogen and renewable energy industry. The goal is for the resulting units to replace traditional power supplies and generators, with additional redundancies built in to ensure that uptime criteria are met.

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Becoming Carbon Neutral by 2030

Equinix has set a long-term aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and using 100% renewable energy throughout its whole global footprint. The E2P2 initiative is part of the company’s overall commitment to prioritize and promote the development of clean, sustainable, and renewable power solutions for use across the data center sector, as well as its own ambitious climate goals.

“The Office of the CTO at Equinix is chartered with driving the next-generation of technologies and architectures to advance the vision of Platform Equinix,” said Justin Dustzadeh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Equinix. “A key component of our vision is to deliver our solutions whilst meeting our important sustainability commitments. The E2P2 project enables us to demonstrate a novel architecture for power 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.”

Equinix has extensive expertise with large-scale fuel cell systems in North America, having used fuel cells to power 15 data centers in the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and New York metro areas. Equinix will use its expertise and resources to deploy and test the experimental E2P2 fuel cell device in a dedicated location within one of its data centers in Milan, Italy. The team plans to focus on creating a commercially viable device that will help data centers all throughout Europe and the world become more environmentally friendly.

A Greener Data Center Industry

Photo Cosma Panzacchi, Executive Vice President Hydrogen, Snam
“We are happy to contribute our know-how to the E2P2 alliance to help tackle the issue of powering urban data centers with clean and competitive energy solutions,” said Cosma Panzacchi, Executive Vice President Hydrogen, Snam.

Fuel cells are acknowledged as a cleaner and quieter power source that might help urban power systems cope with increased demand. They may be installed on a data center campus and run on natural gas, biogas, LPG, or green hydrogen, all of which can be delivered and distributed via existing gas networks.

“We are happy to contribute our know-how to the E2P2 alliance to help tackle the issue of powering urban data centers with clean and competitive energy solutions,” said Cosma Panzacchi, Executive Vice President Hydrogen, Snam. “The concept of connecting fuel cells to gas networks to power resilient urban and edge data centers 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 decarbonize economic sectors, leveraging existing gas networks and sustainable technologies like hydrogen-ready fuel cells.”

The E2P2 project is intended to create a huge step forward in reducing carbon emissions while still satisfying the needs of data centers for a highly reliable essential power supply. A market-oriented strategy that blends innovation and stakeholder involvement is at the center of this vision, with the goal of increasing acceptance and uptake of stationary fuel cells as dependable, efficient, and decentralized primary power sources for various industrial scale applications.

SOLIDpower is proud to contribute to the E2P2 project with its proprietary Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology and systems,” said Massimo Bertoldi, CTO at SOLIDpower. “We strongly believe in the use of fuel cell generators for prime power in data centers, offering a unique combination of energy savings and high power reliability. Particularly, the E2P2 project is part of our efforts aimed to support the development of clean, sustainable and renewable power solutions for application across the data center industry, contributing to reach ambitious climate goals and carbon neutrality by 2050 as committed by Europe. We are excited to join the E2P2 consortium and kick-off this project.”

The group aims to create the definitive open standard for fuel cell applications, paving the road for the commercialization of fuel cell electricity for data centers in Europe and showcasing the industry’s potential role in meeting EU carbon reduction goals.

“Digitization and the data center 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, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Vertiv. “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 providing next-generation power solutions to its global customers.”