SOLIDpower partners with Microsoft

Fuel cell units on top, servers directly below, © SOLIDpower

While SOLIDpower’s core business is the supply of energy to residential and commercial buildings, it has recently branched out into IT. As a German-Italian manufacturer of high-temperature fuel cells, it will now provide units to businesses that need to keep servers running. The most well-known partner it has signed a cooperation agreement with is Microsoft. On Oct. 25, 2017, the first generator came online at the American software giant’s Seattle data center.

So far, the cooperation has resulted in the delivery of 10 solid oxide fuel cells. The units were installed near Microsoft’s headquarters last fall. They are only hooked up to the servers and have no connection to the internal power grid. SOLIDpower said in a press release that “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 [see image].”

The units replace commonly used systems that distribute power from a central location outside the actual server rooms. In addition to being more efficient and less expensive, fuel cell setups remove the need for diesel emergency backup generators to keep servers online during a power outage.

State-of-the-art data centers require an immense amount of energy and, to a large extent, are driving the demand for efficient energy supply solutions. The yearly savings potential is correspondingly high, adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Gas beats power hookup

For years, Microsoft has been trying to improve its energy supply efficiency and switch over to renewable-based production. The company is now taking the next step by setting up a gas-powered data center in cooperation with McKinstry and Cummins. The servers in this new building will connect to gas pipes instead of power lines, …


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