Diesel powered generators have long provided support to data centres if there are power outages or other disruptions to service – they are expensive and rarely used. Microsoft’s announcement on Monday that hydrogen fuel cells have powered a row of data centre servers for 48 consecutive hours has exciting possibilities both for the data centre sector as well as renewables.

Not only is using green hydrogen firmly in line with the sustainability policies of many datacentre operators, but the datacentre operators could put that hydrogen to good financial use. Microsoft say that with the right kit installed, a data centre could store renewable energy generated as hydrogen. That hydrogen could in turn generate electricity for the grid and be used in pumps for hydrogen-powered long-haul vehicles.

Exciting possibilities for the operator and great for tenants to be associated with truly green data centres. What will need to be addressed is if there is a shortfall between the back-up power and the power provided for other uses. Will a tenant have first dibs on the back-up power? What about the operator’s arrangements to supply the new power to third parties? There is also the welcome possibility of simplifying regulation. A huge amount of regulatory compliance regarding noise, generator emissions and associated carbon compliance could be removed. Lots more discussion to be had on this.