Fuel Cell Powered Data Center Research Expands to Residential Use

August 27, 2015

NFCRC Laboratory Data Center Fuel Cell Testing Equipment

In 2014, the National Fuel Cell Research Center successfully collaborated with Microsoft to demonstrate a direct power generation method that places fuel cells in server racks. The demonstration validated the design and use of a 10kW Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) stack and system that eliminated the use of the power distribution system in the data center, and use of the outside grid. In 2015, the collaboration continues and has been expanded to evaluate the implementation of a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) not only for data center server racks, but also for residential applications.

Standardized testing procedures are being applied for assessing the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell systems and their suitability to meet either Microsoft data center requirements or residential application requirements. Two 2.5 kW SOFC systems are being tested and evaluated, with Unit 1 being primarily subjected to Microsoft data center operation conditions, and Unit 2 being primarily subjected to residential application conditions. The NFCRC will also conduct additional tests that will be used to help determine the suitability and degradation of the system in the intended environment, as well as establish engineering parameters, and provide engineering information to the system designer. In the near future, the NFCRC, Microsoft, NRG Energy collaboration will continue as the partnership moves to actual deployment of the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) into data centers and residential applications.