Leading digital infrastructure company Equinix, Inc. has announced the Clean Hydrogen partnership will provide EUR 2.5 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%.
A consortium of seven companies—Equinix, InfraPrime, RISE, Snam, SOLIDpower, TEC4FUELS and Vertiv will explore an innovative integration of solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology and lithium-ion batteries to provide resilient and clean primary power to data center deployments and other critical infrastructure. Implementing natural gas 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.
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, Equinix said. 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 organizations that work on developing European best practices and standards to facilitate high-level concept design and interface definitions.
“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,” adds Justin Dustzadeh, Chief Technology Officer 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.”
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 center campus, and operate using natural gas, biogas, LPG or green hydrogen—which can be transported and distributed over existing gas networks.
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 decarbonization of data centers within a solid consortium gathering fuel cell providers, system integrators as well as data center 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.”
The E2P2 project marks an exciting step toward significant carbon reduction, whilst still meeting requirements for a highly resilient critical power supply to data centers. At the heart of this vision, is a market-oriented approach that integrates innovation and stakeholder engagement to maximize acceptance and uptake opportunities of stationary fuel cells as reliable, efficient and decentralized prime power sources for other industrial scale applications.
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.”
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 centers in Europe, demonstrating the industry’s potential role in achieving EU carbon reduction targets.
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.
Dr Jon Summers, Scientific Lead in Data Centers, RISE said: “This decade is undeniably focused on building a future that is environmentally sustainable. We all know that digitization and data centers 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.”
Cosma Panzacchi, Executive Vice President Hydrogen, Snam said: “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.”
Massimo Bertoldi, CTO, SOLIDpower said: “SOLIDpower is proud to contribute to the E2P2 project with its proprietary Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology and systems. 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.”
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 optimizing the operational reliability and service life of technical components and increasing the efficiency of this subsystem.”
Giordano Albertazzi, President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Vertiv said: “Digitisation 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. 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.”
Equinix has significant experience leveraging large-scale fuel cell platforms in North America—including powering 15 data centers with fuel cells across the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York metros. Equinix will leverage its experience and team to deploy and test the experimental E2P2 fuel cell platform at a dedicated space within one of its Milan, Italy, data centers. The team expects to work to develop a commercially viable product that will facilitate a greener future for data centers across Europe and the world.