We’ve recently announced that we are going to be installing a hydrogen-ready fuel cell microgrid at our data centre facility in Manchester, but what is fuel cell technology and how does it work?
A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device which works by converting fuel such as natural gas, biogas, and hydrogen, or a blend of fuels into electricity through an electrochemical process that requires no combustion - thus avoiding the emissions normally associated with burning this type of fuel. Like batteries, fuel cells convert potential chemical energy into electrical energy and generate heat as a by-product.
The fuel cells consist of three parts - an electrolyte, an anode and a cathode. Electrical ions move through the electrolyte in a fuel cell. An electrochemical reaction converts the fuel into electricity without combustion. Warmed air enters the cathode side of the fuel cell, while steam mixes with fuel entering the anode side to produce reformed fuel. As the reformed fuel crosses the anode, it attracts oxygen ions from the cathode. The oxygen ions combine with the reformed fuel to produce electricity - and clean, affordable, highly reliable, always-on power.
You can see this process outlined in a video here.
As a data centre provider we are constantly looking for innovative energy solutions to help ensure a cheaper, cleaner, uninterrupted energy supply. We have already reduced our carbon output by over 500 tonnes annually through a number of energy saving measures including the installation of a 2MW smart energy battery storage system in 2019. The fuel cell solution not only reduces our carbon emissions through a cleaner, hydrogen ready fuel supply, but it also gives us a second power feed into the facility from a completely different fuel source. This level of resilience running in parallel with the existing mains supply will give our clients even more certainty when hosting business critical equipment at our data centres.
You can read more about our energy efficiency commitment here.