Are Fuel Cells Best Suited for Data Centers?

December 2, 2014 By Karen Henry

data center energy manageIn early November, Microsoft opened an off-grid data center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The data center is powered by fuel cell system that convert biogas into electricity.

Although fuel cells have been around for decades, the technology has struggled to find an application and a market, according to a recent Gigaom blog post. The data center, the post posits, may be that market.

Fuel cells allow for grid independence while also maintaining access to the grid if needed. Fuel cells also may help data centers to mitigate rising electricity costs by giving them more control over what they pay for power since natural gas pricing can generally be hedged up to ten years out.

As is the case with Microsoft’s experimental data center, fuel cells that use biogas have the added benefit of potentially creating a loop that is carbon neutral.

Microsoft Research and Global Foundation Services have been investigating a way to power a data center entirely by fuel cells integrated directly into the server racks.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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