Brennstoffzelle fuel cell data centre
Image courtesy of Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce and cellcentric, a joint venture company set up by Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group AB, are taking the next step in their partnership for the deployment of cellcentric hydrogen fuel cell modules.

Through its Power Systems business unit, Rolls-Royce is to develop complete mtu hydrogen fuel cell solutions based on cellcentric’s fuel cell modules that emit nothing other than water vapour.

This will enable a C02-free, climate-neutral generation of emergency power for data centres. According to Rolls-Royce and cellcentric, both companies are keen to play a part in driving the fuel cell breakthrough and are convinced that the technology – and time – are right for successfully launching commercial fuel cell applications for the mass market.

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Each fuel cell module will in the future deliver a net power output of around 150kW – sufficient to power approximately 10 homes – and can be connected into scalable fuel cell power plants with outputs in the megawatt range – capable of providing clean backup power for large data centres. Rolls-Royce commissioned a fuel cell demonstrator earlier this year and plans to bring a further demonstrator plant online in 2022. The first pilot plants with customers will be installed in 2023, with Rolls-Royce launching standard production fuel cell systems in 2025.

Brennstoffzelle fuel cell module on display on the Rolls-Royce stand at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Image courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

Fuel cell will substantially reduce carbon footprint of data centres

Operators of the very large data centres that handle telecommunications and internet traffic are considered a key customer group, and the market is growing rapidly. Rolls-Royce is keen to enable energy-intensive data centres to substantially reduce their CO2 footprint by making it possible for them to renounce the use of electricity generated from fossil fuels.

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“Electrical generators based on fuel cells represent the next leap forward in the energy transition, both for us and our customers,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems. “That’s why we’re investing a three-digit million amount in R&D over the next few years, and we hope that this strong commitment will encourage governments and politicians to promote and support this pioneering, extremely climate-friendly technology.

“When they run on green hydrogen, meaning hydrogen made using renewable energy sources, fuel cells are climate-neutral. For this reason, and also because we’re simply convinced by fuel cell technology, we also want to look into how green hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively in the quantities we need.”

President of Sustainable Power Solutions at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, Perry Kuiper added: “We’re among the world’s top three suppliers of emergency gensets for data centres and as such we enjoy the long-standing trust of our customers, who are now seeking sustainable solutions to their energy supply needs. We’ve declared it our mission to have over half of data centres supplied by emergency power from fuel cells in the future.”

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Development of CO2-free solutions using hydrogen technology is taking place at Rolls-Royce Power Systems in its new ‘Power Lab’ division.

CEO of cellcentric, Dr Matthias Jurytko said: “The hydrogen-based fuel cell is a crucial building block to achieve the goal of a CO2-neutral society. With Rolls-Royce, we have an important partner at our side with whom we want to achieve further economies of scale to help the technology achieve a breakthrough. Our cooperation sends a clear signal to politicians and industry: both companies are convinced of the benefits of fuel cells and are working hard to commercialise them. The right framework conditions for this must therefore now be put in place. This applies in particular to the issue of infrastructure and thus the generation, storage and transport of hydrogen.”

The partnership with cellcentric offers Rolls-Royce the opportunity of using fuel cell modules produced by a leading supplier with long-standing experience. Its quick deployment of a large volume of fuel cells has, in turn, enabled cellcentric to ramp up its series production, while preparation for on-highway use is still in progress. Their installation into heavy-duty utility vehicles from Daimler Truck AG and Volvo is planned for the second half of the decade.