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Lowing its dependency of diesel-powered backup generators, Microsoft is testing hydrogen fuel cells for backup power at its data centres and the initial results are encouraging.

In a worldwide first that could jumpstart a long-forecast clean energy economy built around the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen fuel cells powered a row of data centre servers for 48 consecutive hours, Microsoft announced this week.

For 48 hours of backup power generation, each data centre would require up to 100,000 kg of hydrogen to fuel the backup generators for an extended power outage.

Diesel fuel currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of Microsoft’s overall emissions and its use is primarily confined to Azure data centres.

“They (diesel fuel) are expensive. And they sit around and don’t do anything for more than 99 per cent of their life,” said Mark Monroe, a principle infrastructure engineer on Microsoft’s team for datacenter advanced development.

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