Caterpillar has launched a three-year project through a collaboration with Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to demonstrate a power system incorporating a large-format hydrogen fuel cell to produce reliable and sustainable backup power for data centers. The project is supported and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the H2@Scale initiative and backed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

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 high expectations set by current diesel engine systems.

As the prime contractor on the project, Caterpillar is providing the overall system integration, power electronics, and controls that form the central structure of the power solution, which will be fueled by low-carbon-intensity hydrogen. Microsoft is hosting the demonstration project at a company data center in Quincy, Wash., while 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 (GHG) impacts.

The demonstration will provide key insights into the capability of fuel cell systems to serve multi-megawatt data centers by providing uninterruptible power that supports 99.999% uptime requirements. The project will also explore the scalability of fuel cell systems powered by low-carbon-intensity hydrogen from cost and performance perspectives, including 48-hour operation using on-site fuel, power transfer time, and load acceptance. 

The Caterpillar-led program is one of 18 projects that have been awarded a share of funding under the DOE’s H2@Scale initiative. The awards are managed by the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office’s (EERE’s) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, with contributions from EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Vehicle Technologies Office.

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