Singapore’s data centres are adopting hydrogen power to align with the nation’s net-zero carbon emissions goals by 2050.
These centres, which consume significant amounts of electricity, are exploring the use of hydrogen to reduce their carbon footprint and enhance sustainability. The shift towards hydrogen aligns with the government’s criteria for greener data centre operations, including the use of sustainable energy sources and improved efficiency. As data centres play a crucial role in supporting digital infrastructure, the integration of hydrogen technology presents opportunities and challenges for Singapore’s data centre industry.
Traditional data centres are energy-intensive, requiring substantial electricity to power servers and cooling systems. The adoption of hydrogen power offers a cleaner alternative, as hydrogen combustion does not produce carbon dioxide emissions. To ensure the hydrogen used is considered green, it must be generated through zero-emission methods such as renewable energy sources like solar power. Singapore’s Keppel Data Centres is exploring the construction of a floating data centre park that could be powered by imported liquefied and gaseous hydrogen, with future plans to transition to green hydrogen.
The implementation of sustainability practices in data centres reflects the priorities of major technology clients aiming for net-zero emissions. Carbon-negative companies, which generate fewer greenhouse gases than they offset, are increasingly seeking data centres with sustainable operations. Keppel Data Centres’ proposed offshore facility aligns with these expectations and demonstrates the industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility.
Singapore’s government has imposed criteria for new data centres, focusing on greener operations, energy efficiency, and sustainable cooling methods. Under a pilot program, new data centres will be selected based on their adherence to these criteria, creating a total allocated capacity of approximately 60MW. Successful applicants will be announced by June 2023. The moratorium on new data centres, lifted in July 2022, has prompted data centre operators to explore innovative approaches to meet sustainability requirements.
Several companies are actively pursuing hydrogen-powered data centres in Singapore. Empyrion DC has proposed a low-carbon hydrogen-powered data centre that would be supplied with hydrogen generated at a Singapore power-generating facility. Equinix, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore, is testing hydrogen fuel cells as a power source for data centres. Hydrogen fuel cells, capable of converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, could provide an alternative power solution for data centres, depending on their size and energy requirements.
The adoption of hydrogen technology in data centres poses challenges, including infrastructure availability for hydrogen production, storage, and transportation, as well as cost-effectiveness compared to other energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cells, although commercially viable and scalable, currently rely on expensive catalysts made from precious metals. Research and development efforts are needed to explore lower-cost materials and improve the efficiency of combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGT) and hydrogen fuel cell systems.
To accelerate the adoption of green hydrogen, Singapore plans to study the possibility of importing hydrogen from neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. The availability of gaseous green hydrogen via pipelines would be an ideal scenario for immediate use in data centres.
The integration of hydrogen power in Singapore’s data centres signifies a significant step towards achieving sustainable digital infrastructure. By leveraging advanced hydrogen technologies and fostering partnerships, Singapore can lead the way in demonstrating the viability and benefits of hydrogen-powered data centres. As the industry explores the potential of hydrogen, ongoing research and development efforts are crucial to overcoming challenges and optimizing the use of this clean energy source in data centre operations.