Solidpower 13 December 2017



With the internet’s increasing omnipresence and companies’ shift of storing data and applications into the cloud; operators of data centers are being challenged to source power that is, on the one hand, reliable enough to ensure continued service, and, simultaneously environmentally friendly in order to maintain their operations.

To face this challenge, one of the largest IT companies in the world, Microsoft, developed a new breakthrough architecture that is about to launch soon: power generation at the rack level based on fuel cell technology from Solidpower.

Just a few kilometers away from Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, in one of their huge data centers, ten fuel cell generators are currently being installed to provide electricity. The devices, which are based on the Bluegen fuel cell generator distributed in Europe, are installed right above each server rack, and generate power directly at the rack.

Fuel cell technology isn’t new for data centers; they’ve been used in various locations as clean and reliable power sources. What’s new is Microsoft’s decentralized approach to their installation. So far, it was common to install fuel cells in a container outside the actual server rooms and connect them with the building’s internal power network. This caused additional investments for complex power distribution systems, and reduced the overall efficiency. With the new decentralized architecture, which Microsoft developed in the past four years, these additional investments are not required, thus significantly reducing complexity.

No more diesel generators for backup power

Solidpower’s fuel cell generators operate 24/7, and generate electricity with the highest efficiency in the world. This results not only in reduced generation costs, but also further reductions in carbon emissions. With the decentralized setup and available redundancy capacities of the servers, diesel generators previously used as backup power supplies become obsolete.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in savings potential

The forthcoming commissioned installation in Seattle is the first of its kind, and marks a paradigm shift for the supply of electricity to data centers. “The technology will soon be deployed at a much larger scale. We will then use systems that are specifically designed for this purpose based on the reliable and highly efficient technology of our Bluegen system”, said Alberto Ravagni, CEO of Solidpower. Modern data centers are comparable to medium-sized cities in terms of their power consumption; this means that should Microsoft decide to utilize the innovative technology on a larger scale, it could save considerable sums of money in comparison to the currently used systems: annual savings could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. For Solidpower, the cooperation with Microsoft opens up a new market as fuel cell technology so far has been mostly installed in private homes and small business across Europe. With this new venture though, Solidpower is stepping into the multi-billion-dollar market of data centers.

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