Proton Urges Data Centres To Consider Fuel Cells


Carbon-conscious data centre managers should examine hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to diesel backup, says Thomas Melczer

It is fair to say that it is still early days for the hydrogen fuel cell concept, as a solution for providing an alternative and clean power source.

But according to the boss of a German fuel cell developer, the hydrogen fuel cell is starting to make its presence felt, and should gain greater market impact within the next two to three years.

And now is the time that data centre owners and operators should be examining the technology to see how it can play a vital role in reducing their carbon emissions. Google for example is reportedly testing the tiny fuel cell boxes, dubbed the Bloom box, from Bloom Energy.

Slow Arrival

Over on this side of the Atlantic, fuel cells have a somewhat limited presence in data centres, but this could be about to change.

According to Thomas Melczer, CEO at Proton Power Systems, the fuel cell has traditionally gained a lot of traction in both the commercial vehicle sector and the maritime industry. For commercial vehicles Proton supplies hydrogen fuel cells for city buses and fork lift trucks, whereas as in the maritime sector, fuel cells are now been utilised for ships and boats as a power source while they are in harbour.

Fuel cell systems are considered to be an much cleaner and attractive option for the generation of electrical energy in the near future. The advantage is that they can be used to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and thereby cut CO2 emissions dramatically. The downside at the moment is cost, but this should come down as uptake increases.

“We have been in business since 1996 but we are a small specialist company with around 50 people that started out providing fuel cells for the automotive sector,” explained Proton Power’s Melczer. “We are focused on providing a product platform with a multi purpose system, so our fuel cells can be used to provide power for HGV vehicles, or auxiliary power supply for ships. But we now also offer 50 kilowatt systems for data centres that can be run in parallel, depending on the data centre power requirements.”

“We try not lose track of our of our industrial past. We try to focus ourselves on suitable alternative uses of fuel cells, but we don’t want to be too focused on one application,” said Melczer. “We work closely with our industrial partners in the light and heavy duty vehicle market; the backup power market, and the ship designer sector.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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