Caterpillar experts in advanced power technologies, controls and system integration are working alongside Microsoft experts in data center design and Ballard experts in fuel cell design, to demonstrate a 1.5 MW backup power delivery and control system that would meet or exceed the high expectations set by current diesel engine systems, while achieving a significantly reduced emissions profile. Image: Ballard

Ballard Power Systems has begun a three-year cooperation with Caterpillar Inc. and Microsoft to showcase a power system using large-format hydrogen fuel cells to generate reliable and sustainable backup power for data centers.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) H2@Scale effort supports and partially funds the project, which is endorsed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Caterpillar experts in advanced power technologies, controls, and system integration are collaborating with Microsoft experts in data center design and Ballard experts in fuel cell design to demonstrate a 1.5 MW backup power delivery and control system that meets or exceeds the high standards established by current diesel engine systems while significantly reducing emissions.

Ballard will supply a 1.5 megawatt ClearGen-II hydrogen fuel cell generator. Caterpillar is the prime contractor on the project and is responsible for system integration, power electronics, and controls that comprise the central structure of the power solution, which will be fueled by low-carbon hydrogen. Microsoft is hosting the demonstration project at its Quincy, Washington, data center. NREL is doing evaluations on the safety, technoeconomics, and greenhouse gas effects of nuclear power.

“At Caterpillar, we focus on supporting our customers with reliable, resilient and economical power solutions while achieving their climate-related goals,” said Jason Kaiser, Vice President of Caterpillar Electric Power. “This hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project enables us to collaborate with industry leaders to take a large step toward commercially viable power solutions that also support our customers in making their operations more sustainable.”

“We continue to invest in research and advanced development in hydrogen fuel cells as one of the various pathways toward our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030,” said Christian Belady, Distinguished Engineer and VP, Advanced Development, Cloud Operations + Innovation at Microsoft. “This latest project with Caterpillar will provide valuable insights into how to leverage hydrogen fuel cells for backup power in our datacenters at scale.”

“We are excited to be collaborating with a complementary team of global industry leaders on this important demonstration project,” said Randy MacEwen, Ballard’s President & CEO. “The results of this project will provide key insights into the capability of fuel cell systems to scale and serve multi-megawatt data centers. The project will also explore the scalability of fuel cell systems powered by low carbon-intensity hydrogen from cost and performance perspectives. Ballard’s industry leading PEM technology is well suited for customers undergoing energy transition and requiring high power backup applications featuring its quick start up ability, proven durability, and load following capability.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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