Microsoft now wants fuel cells to help boost its power-hungry servers

By | October 31, 2017

By: Bloomberg |
Revealed:October 31, 2017 5:57 pm

Microsoft, data centres, fuel cells, Microsoft fuel cell investment, energy efficiency, lower-pollution energy, hydrogen, biofuel, greenhouse gases, natural gas, carbon dioxide, global warming, renewable energy, solar and wind developers Microsoft Corp is transferring to make use of gasoline cells at its power-hungry server farms, saying the know-how could double the effectivity of power used. (File Picture)

Microsoft Corp is transferring to make use of gasoline cells at its power-hungry server farms, saying the know-how could double the effectivity of power used. The software program firm is testing the way it can use the units to generate electrical energy and plans to put in a 10-megawatt gasoline cell inside just a few years at a price of about $45 million.

“This know-how may be very, very disruptive, and we’re investing loads of money and time into it,” mentioned Sean James, principal analysis program supervisor at Microsoft’s R&D program on power technique. “We might nearly double the power effectivity. We’ve been in a position to mannequin and measure within the lab that with gasoline cells.”

As soon as so costly that they have been solely utilized in laboratories and area initiatives, gasoline cells have unfold to extra business purposes looking for lower-pollution types of power. They generate electrical energy by a chemical response involving pure gasoline, hydrogen or a biofuel. Firms growing them together with Ballard Energy Techniques Inc, Ceres Energy Holdings Plc and FuelCell Vitality Inc are additionally looking for to place them into residence heating and to increase the vary of electrical autos.

Funding within the gasoline cell trade has dipped in recent times, shrinking 85 p.c between 2015 and 2016, in response to information from Bloomberg New Vitality Finance. “Whereas gasoline cells have been seen as the reply to electrical autos within the 2000s, they by no means managed to realize the scales of economic system that we now have seen with batteries,” mentioned James Frith, power storage analyst at Bloomberg New Vitality Finance. “This has led to gasoline cells largely being left on the wayside.”

Information facilities are a great marketplace for gasoline cells due to the quantity of energy they eat. Worldwide, they draw greater than 1 p.c of the world’s electrical energy. This demand is anticipated to rise as the worldwide inhabitants turns into more and more technology-savvy and extra objects turn out to be devices as all the things from thermostats to kettles hook up with the web. By 2020, 1 million new units are anticipated to return on-line each hour, in response to Microsoft.

Microsoft can also be interested in gasoline cells as a result of they’re answerable for much less greenhouse gases than conventional sources. They emit small quantities of CO2, however no pollution akin to sulfur or nitrogen oxides which can be sometimes produced by burning fossil fuels. Microsoft will get 50 p.c of its power from photo voltaic, wind and hydropower and is focusing on to extend that proportion to 60 p.c by 2020.

Whereas it will likely be utilizing pure gasoline in its gasoline cells at first, it can search to acquire a clear gasoline akin to hydrogen comprised of renewable power similarly that it indicators energy buy agreements with photo voltaic and wind builders, James mentioned. Whereas Microsoft wish to set up gasoline cells in its information facilities as quickly as attainable, the trade is nascent and it’s not attainable to purchase the units on the scale that the corporate would wish, in response to James.

“Basically what we need to do is get out of R&D as quickly as attainable and really use them to energy the info heart, we hope to try this as quickly as attainable,” he mentioned. “Sadly we now have a provide chain situation. I would like a whole bunch of megawatts of this stuff.”

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