APC Uses Fuel Cells to Power Data Center Enclosures

The company is introducing the Proton Exchange Membrane, or PEM, Fuel Cell as a green alternative to generators and batteries.

American Power Conversion Corp. is bringing fuel-cell technology to its InfraStruXure data center enclosure.

The West Kingston, R.I., company on Monday is introducing the Proton Exchange Membrane, or PEM, Fuel Cell as a green alternative to generators and batteries, which use lead and acid.

InfraStruXure is a rack-optimized data center enclosure that integrates power, cooling and environmental management. The hydrogen fuel cells in the PEM technology are offered in 10-kilowatt modules, said Gary Rumsey, director of business development for emerging technologies at APC.

The company has been working on the technology for several years and has been running demos at its Rhode Island facility for more than a year, Rumsey said. APC sees the fuel-cell technology as a way to expand the options to its customers, he said.

"Were not a fuel-cell technology [company]," Rumsey said. "Were introducing an enhancement to the InfraStruXure [product], and doing it with hydrogen fuel cells."

He said APC will work closely with the customer to ensure that the setup of the fuel-cell technology meets all local permitting requirements. Ideally, the hydrogen is stored outside the data center, and the fuel is fed through pipes to the cell, Rumsey said, although APC can set up the system differently depending on customer needs. A fuel cell management system controls and monitors the operation.

Rumsey said there has been a lot of customer interest, particularly in major metropolitan areas on the East and West coasts, where electricity costs are among the highest and emissions regulations the tightest.

"Its been a boom-and-bust cycle for fuel cells, but now its surging," Rumsey said.

Initially, there will be some electricity used in the fuel-cell environments, usually enough for a few seconds to get the enclosure up and running, he said. Future iterations may not need any battery power, Rumsey said.


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