Hydrogen Fuel Cells in the Data Centre

Last night I went to Comtec's new data centre facility in Reigate. It's a pretty impressive place, with some interesting bits and pieces in the actual computer room (and NOC). There's an efficient 'hot corridor' layout with multiple coolers, Blade Ready systems, and doesn't rely on tidy under-floor cabling.

The best bit is just outside the main computer room. It's a hydrogen fuel cell - one of only three in the UK, and apparently the only one that actually works in a live environment.

Basically, it looks like an ordinary tall 19" rack cabinet. When the power fails, conventional UPSes take up the load in the computer room, while the fuel cell fires up. It's divided into three pieces, each of which starts up in turn. It's actually quite an underwhelming experience, because all you really see or hear is a few fans starting up and some icons on a monitoring computer screen changing. But this is good news - there's no diesel generator, no complex moving parts and an incredibly small carbon footprint.

It's nice to see something real going on to make data centres more 'green'.

Submitted by coofercat on Wed, 2007-06-06 07:42



I went to these guys website and had a nice little chat with them using their online system.

the hydrogen they use for there system is obtained using electrolysis's, which requires an engery source powered by carbon.

so basically its absolutely no greener using this system than a standard petrol generator. If anything its actually worse in terms of a carbon footprint.

although at a local level it is quieter and cleaner.

Submitted by Anonymous Coward (not verified) on Sat, 2007-06-23 17:16.

I hadn't overly considered how they get hydrogen in the first place. However, electrolysis does not mandate carbon based power sources (although of course only a few percent of our electricity comes from renuables). Also, electricity is generally the cleanest form of energy once produced. Central production makes sense because any "dirt" can be handled more effectively there than in numerous smaller, generally less well maintained, generators across the country. I guess we need to consider hydrogen as stored electricity, rather than a fuel per-se.

You make a good point - thanks. I think the other points about a more efficient data centre still stand though.

Submitted by coofercat on Sat, 2007-06-23 18:17.
Clean electricity????

In use maybe but with power generation at 34% efficient and DEFRA CO2 factor 0.54522kg/kWh as of Jan 2011 I would suggest anything is cleaner than electricity.
Electric cars??? when diesel and petrol CO2 factors are 0.25301 and 0.24176 kg/kWh

Submitted by David Bradshaw (not verified) on Fri, 2011-02-25 11:13.