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Caterpillar has announced a three-year project collaborating with Microsoft and Ballard Power Systems to demonstrate a large-format hydrogen fuel cell power system to produce reliable and sustainable backup power for data centres.  

The original equipment manufacturer’s experts in advanced power technologies, controls and system integration are working alongside Microsoft experts in data centre design and Ballard experts in fuel cell design to demonstrate a 1.5 megawatt (MW) backup power delivery and control system that would meet or exceed the high expectations set by current diesel engine systems. 

“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,” Caterpillar Electric Power vice president Jason Kaiser said. 

Caterpillar is the project’s prime contractor and is providing the overall system integration, power electronics, and controls that form the central structure of the power solution, fuelled by low-carbon-intensity hydrogen.  

Microsoft is hosting the demonstration project at a company data centre in Washington State, while Ballard is supplying an advanced hydrogen fuel cell module.  

“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,” Microsoft Datacentre Advanced Development distinguished engineer and vice president Christian Belady said. 

“This latest project with Caterpillar will provide valuable insights into how to leverage hydrogen fuel cells for backup power in our data centres at scale.” 

The demonstration will provide key insights into the capability of fuel cell systems to serve multi-megawatt data centres by providing uninterruptible power that supports 99.999 per cent uptime requirements. 

This project is the latest example of Caterpillar’s contribution to a safer future, with the MineStar Solutions suite allowing businesses to assess their operations, big and small, remotely and from a distance, introducing aspects of safety and productivity.