Fuel Cell facts published by US DOE

Fuel Cells are getting more news and has potential for use in data centers.  Here is a DOE site that provides some good facts on the current and projected numbers for operating fuel cells.

One is for Natural Gas.


and another is for Diesel.


What I didn’t know is the current standards for start-up time from 20 degrees C.  60 minutes for a natural gas CHP solution.


UTC Power explains two different fuel cell technologies that illustrate the start-up time issue.

Phosphoric Acid fuel cells (PAFCs):  Phosphoric acid fuel cells use liquid phosphoric acid as the electrolyte. UTC Power's family of stationary power plants, produced since 1991, are PAFC power plants and highly efficient - total efficiency of 90 percent is achievable when waste heat produced by the fuel cell is used for co-generation. PAFC power plants are usually large, heavy and require warm-up time. Because of this, PAFCs are used mainly for stationary applications.

Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells:  PEM fuel cells, also known as polymer electrolyte fuel cells, are a type of fuel cell currently under development at most fuel cell companies. PEM fuel cells use a thin solid membrane as an electrolyte. These fuel cells deliver high power density and offer the advantages of low weight and volume, compared to other fuel cells. These fuel cells also operate at relatively low temperatures, around 175°F. Low temperature operation allows them to start quickly (less warm-up time), which makes them particularly well suited for transportation applications such as automobiles and fleet vehicles.

So, if you thinking of fuel cells in the data center, you may want to use them as the primary power and have the grid as back-up.  DataCenterKnowledge referenced customers who currently take this approach.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Power Bank Data Center

December 30th, 2008 : Rich Miller

Green data centersThe First National Bank of Omaha wanted to ensure that its data center couldn’t be knocked offline by a tornado or power outage. So in 1999 it built a new data center in the underground levels of its Omaha building, encased in concrete walls that can withstand winds of 260 miles per hour. The facility is also powered by hydrogen fuel cells, operating completely “off the grid.”

Both the Verizon and Fujitsu facilities use fuel cell systems from UTC. APC recently introduced Fuel Cell Extended Run (FCXR), a hydrogen-based fuel cell backup solutionthat integrates with the company’s InfraStruXure racks and enclosures. MGE and Siemens also tested fuel cell solutions for data centers, but later discontinued the programs, according to SearchDataCenter.