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Rolls-Royce showcases breakthrough in emissions-free back-up

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Data centres connected to a dedicated source of hydrogen-based, CO2-free emergency power are on track become a reality by mid-decade.

Rolls-Royce and cellcentric are investing a "triple-digit million amount" to develop C02-free, climate-neutral emergency power by deploying cellcentric hydrogen mtu fuel cell modules.

Prototypes of their breakthrough are being showcased at COP26, which continues in Glasgow, Scotland, this week.

“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,” Schell added.

The development part of the R&D project will take place at Rolls-Royce Power Systems' new "power lab" division.

From here Rolls-Royce, through its power systems business unit, will collaborate on complete mtu hydrogen fuel cell solutions based on cellcentric’s fuel cell modules to generate emergency power that emits nothing but water vapour. Rolls-Royce and cellcentric operate as a joint venture company set up by Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group AB

For the market launch, pilot installations are scheduled for 2023 with a full market launch "envisaged mid-decade".

Perry Kuiper, president sustainable power solutions at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, 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.”

The cells have multiple applications and data centres are considered a key market with rapid growth prospects.

Rolls-Royce launched mtu hydrogen solutions for power generation in October, highlighting that today, gensets powered by its mtu Series 500 and Series 4000 gas engines can be operated with a gas blending of 10% hydrogen. Beginning in 2022, operation with a hydrogen content of 25% will be possible.

Following today's announcement, the firm said it is "keen to enable energy-intensive data centers to substantially reduce their CO2 footprint by making it possible for them to renounce the use of electricity generated from fossil fuels".

Last month the Daily Mail reported that Rolls-Royce is talking to the likes of AWS to deploy "mini nuclear reactors" to power data centres following a six-year R&D process.

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