Rolls Royce-MTU teaming with Mercedes on fuel cells for data center on-site power

Susanne Hahn, Head of Lab1886 Global, poses with Martin Teigeler, Executive Vice President R&D Rolls-Royce Power Systems

Affiliates of automobile rivals Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz are partnering to create a pilot project for using sustainable fuel-cell technology for on-site power at data centers globally.

Rolls-Royce Power Systems and Lab1886, a unit within the Mercedes-Benz group, have agreed on a project beginning next year at Rolls-Royce’s data center in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Rolls-Royce, under its MTU brand name, will develop gen-sets using vehicle fuel cells. MTU gen-sets are already in serve at data centers worldwide, but traditionally have been diesel-fueled.

The pilot project will construct an emergency power plant at Friedrichshafen, based on fuel cell modules built by Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH.

“As a supplier of integrated solutions, the decarbonization of our drive, propulsion and power generation systems is a key strategic aim. In pursuing it, we’re open to all technologies. Hence fuel cells are set to become a key technology for us,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems.

Rolls-Royce has been researching the manufacture of hydrogen and other synthetic fuels using renewable energy resources and for use in fuel cells. Numerous other energy companies such as Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Ansaldo Energia, MAN Energy Solutions also are exploring hydrogen production for reducing the carbon footprint of power generation.

On-site, emergency power firms such as Rolls Royce-MTU and Cummins also are exploring fuel cells hydrogen for those applications.

“The idea behind the fuel cell is as ingenious as it is simple and we’re all pretty familiar with it,” said Martin Teigeler, R&D chief for Rolls-Royce Power Systems. “But implementing it in practice can still be a difficult challenge. Now that fuel cells have reached series maturity, they’re ready for the commercial market.”

Data centers are a huge consumer of power generation. One report by the Berkeley Lab estimated that data centers next year may consume about 73 billion kWh in the U.S. alone.

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MHPS, Ansaldo and MAN also discussed the future of hydrogen-power generation during POWERGEN International last month in New Orleans. It certainly will be a topic at POWERGEN 2020 happening December 8-10, 2020, in Orlando. Stay tuned for more information.

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