Rolls-Royce and Lab1886, an innovation lab within the Mercedes-Benz group, have signed a cooperation agreement which sees the launch of a pilot project to investigate the use of vehicle fuel cells for stationary power generation. Over the coming months the Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit, which produces solutions under the MTU brand name, will develop an integrated MTU solution for sustainable off-grid generation of continuous and emergency power, using vehicle fuel cells and focused on safety-critical applications such as data centres.
MTU generator sets from Rolls-Royce are already in service at numerous data centres worldwide, providing emergency power when needed to safeguard global internet traffic. To date, these generator sets have been diesel-engine based, but fuel cells could be a valid alternative.
Rolls-Royce Power Systems – MTU – and Lab 1886, the innovation unit of the Mercedes-Benz group, are working together on a pilot project developing vehicle fuel cells for sustainable, off-grid (emergency) power generation.
The pilot project will include the construction of an emergency power plant for the Rolls-Royce data centre in Friedrichshafen. The plant will be based on fuel cell modules built by Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH. Mercedes-Benz has developed expertise in hydrogen-powered electric vehicles through its work on many generations of vehicles, while Rolls-Royce has long-standing experience of fuel cell systems using other technologies.
Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said at the launch, “As a supplier of integrated solutions, the decarbonisation of our drive, propulsion and power generation systems is a key strategic aim. In pursuing it, we're open to all technologies – and fuel cells are set to become a key technology for us.”
Dr Martin Teigeler, R&D chief of Power Systems, added, “The idea behind the fuel cell is as ingenious as it is simple and we're all pretty familiar with it. But implementing it in practice can still be a challenge. Now that fuel cells have reached series maturity, they're ready for the commercial market.”
Alongside fuel cell technology, Rolls-Royce is researching the manufacture of hydrogen and other synthetic fuels using renewable energy sources – also for use in fuel cells. “Used in this combination, fuel cells promise to make an even bigger contribution to the energy turnaround,” said Teigeler. “We're delighted to work with Lab1886, because their technological mindset fits ours perfectly. We're confident that Mercedes-Benz fuel cell modules have the potential to open up new application possibilities in stationary power generation as well, and that's our market.”
Susanne Hahn, head of Lab1886 Global, said, “Our innovativeness has always been one of the main drivers of our long-term success and cross-industry exchange and collaboration have always been vital to it. We're delighted to be supporting Rolls-Royce on a pilot project that will bring us closer to a successful energy transition outside the realm of the automobile.”
Fuel cells for data centres
Today’s society would struggle to function without data centres, but they are also among the biggest consumers of energy. Fuel cells are now a feasible proposition for the carbon-neutral generation of emergency and continuous power to keep data centres up and running. Few energy technologies offer the same level of reliability and modular scalability and include all the benefits of renewable energies without dependence on the conventional energy market. Constantly fed with hydrogen, fuel cell systems can generate continuous power. Synergies can also be exploited for cooling, since the outlet temperature of the computer system coolant corresponds to the inlet temperature of the fuel cell coolant.
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