The company wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, but it must also decouple its data centers from fossil energy. It hopes for a solution from hydrogen fuel cells: the new technology has now been proven in a two-day test.
Recently reported that Microsoft aimed for complete carbon neutrality by 2030 and promised to switch its data centers, which still run on diesel-powered generators, to 100 percent renewable energy by the end of the decade. It has now taken a big step in this direction: it recently ran several servers in one of his data centers with hydrogen fuel cells for two full days.
Interest in hydrogen fuel cells sparked at Microsoft in 2018 when researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory powered computers with a proton-permeable membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell in a demonstration. One of Microsoft’s senior engineers, Mark Monroe, was present at the show and saw a fantasy in the technology.
Monroe’s team has developed a 250-kilowatt power cell system that can drive an entire line of servers running in data centers. The system was commissioned in September 2019 at an Azure server farm not far from Salt Lake City and has now passed the 48-hour test. Next time, the team plans to test a three-megawatt assembly that is the same size as the diesel-powered generators currently in use.
Monroe hopes that an entire Azure data center can be converted to fuel cells, and later fuel will be delivered to hydrogen farms by hydrogen-powered vehicles, thus expanding the environment-conscious energy supply by one more turn. And Microsoft’s commitment to technology may convince other companies that it’s worth moving in that direction.