Fuel cell technology from the US space programme is being adapted to make sure critical commercial data centres get even closer to 100 per cent system availability.
One US based company, Sure Power, has begun to install its high availability electric power systems to support mission critical operations at data centres and process industries across America.
Based on a novel use of fuel cells, the system is calculated to give 99.9999 per cent availability of power supply. Availability is the probability that a component or system will operate over its anticipated life.
The nation's largest independent bank, the First National Bank of Omaha, installed a system in May. Art Manning, executive vice president of Sure Power, said that this was the first commercial deployment of fuel cell technology.
"Over the last five years, we have developed this application to take advantage of a "clean" electricity that is able to revolutionise on-site power systems," he said.
The system will generate and deliver electricity on-site to power the bank's computer data centre. Manning said Sure Power is in preliminary talks with companies that have international operations in Asia and Europe.
Electrical power failure, even for a few minutes, is not an option for First National Bank of Omaha's Technology Center which processes hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is estimated that a single major retail client can lose as much as $6 million an hour if the centre's power fails and orders are not processed.
"The reliability of 'six 9s' computer grade electricity is a critical difference over existing power arrangements that will substantially increase our computer uptime," said Dennis Hughes, director of property management at the bank. "The result is a tremendous leap in our competitive advantage."
Manning explained that the systems diagnostics and early warning alarms give ample time for technicians to be on-site to make proper repairs before anything goes wrong.
"Backup power plants are always operating and redundant units are always creating power that is beyond the critical load. Taking a power plant module off-line for scheduled or unscheduled maintenance does not impact the critical load," he said.
NASA developed the fuel cells originally for the Apollo, Gemini and space shuttle programs.
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