Daimler is starting a technology cooperation on non-automotive fuel-cell systems. The goal is to use the technology for carbon-free energy supply systems. A pilot project for a data processing center will start in 2018.
Daimler through its wholly owned subsidiary NuCellSys is expanding the application spectrum of fuel cell technology in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America (MBRDNA) and the Daimler Innovations Lab1886.
External partners for the use of automotive fuel cell systems in stationary energy supply systems are Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Power Innovations (PI), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The market maturity of automotive fuel cell systems today is undisputed. They are ready for everyday use and represent a promising option for the mobility sector. But hydrogen's potential outside the realm of the automobile – keyword energy, industrial and home solutions – is diverse and requires the development of new strategies. Economies of scale and modularization are important issues in this regard
Data processing centers are real energy hogs
One possible field of application for the new systems are data processing centers. They are among the biggest consumers of energy in the new economy. According to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the electricity demand of data processing centers in the USA will increase to an estimated 140 billion kilowatt hours annually by 2020, which corresponds to the yearly production of about 50 power plants and annual CO₂ emissions of around 100 million metric tons.
The innovative concept of a "hydrogen-based" carbon-free data processing center comprises fuel cells, electrolyzer, storage units, photovoltaic systems and wind farms. The partners offset the instability and variability of renewable energy sources with the combination of the systems.
The idea is that the data processing center's basic energy needs are met by solar power plants and wind farms. In situations in which the solar and wind energy produced exceeds the data processing center's requirements, the surplus energy can be used to produce hydrogen by means of electrolysis. The energy is thus stored instead of curtailing the generation of power.
If the data processing center's energy requirements exceed the solar and wind energy being produced, or even if there is a power outage, the fuel cell systems generate electricity using the hydrogen stored previously. The use of automotive fuel cell systems helps to simplify the generation and supply of energy for data processing centers and to significantly improve the carbon footprint. The traditional energy supply system accounts for about 30-40% of the costs for building a new data processing center. The new energy supply approach can lower the total cost of ownership by eliminating the need for diesel generators, central interruptible power supply systems, switchgear, and expensive copper wiring.
The partners thereby pursue a sustainable and independent energy supply for data processing centers and at the same time expedite the energy revolution.