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Caterpillar to Test Large Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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Caterpillar will test a power system incorporating large-format hydrogen fuel cells in a demonstration project with Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to produce “reliable and sustainable backup power for Microsoft data centers,” according to Caterpillar.

The project is supported and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the [email protected] initiative and backed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

“This hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project enables us to collaborate with industry leaders to take a large step toward commercially viable power solutions that also support our customers in making their operations more sustainable,” said Jason Kaiser, VP for Caterpillar’s electric power division, in a prepared statement.

Caterpillar is providing the overall system integration, power electronics, and controls that form the central structure of the power solution that will be fueled by low-carbon-intensity hydrogen. Microsoft is hosting the demonstration project at a company data center in Quincy, Washington, and Ballard is supplying an advanced hydrogen fuel cell module. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is performing analyses on safety, techno-economics, and greenhouse gas impacts.

“We continue to invest in research and advanced development in hydrogen fuel cells as one of the various pathways toward our commitment to be carbon negative by 2030,” said Christian Belady, VP, advanced development, cloud operations and innovation at Microsoft, in a statement. “This latest project with Caterpillar will provide valuable insights into how to leverage hydrogen fuel cells for backup power in our datacenters at scale.”

Caterpillar experts in advanced power technologies, controls and system integration are working alongside Microsoft experts in data center design and Ballard experts in fuel cell design to demonstrate a 1.5 MW backup power delivery and control system that would meet or exceed the expectations set by current diesel engine systems.

“We are excited to be collaborating with a complementary team of global industry leaders on this important demonstration project,” said Randy MacEwen, president/CEO of Ballard, in a statement. “The results of this project will provide key insights into the capability of fuel cell systems to scale and serve multi-megawatt data centers. The project will also explore the scalability of fuel cell systems powered by low carbon-intensity hydrogen from cost and performance perspectives.” 

Source: Caterpillar