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Hydrogen-based power generation: a net-zero backup solution for data centers

In this era of digital transformation, data centers have emerged as the backbone of our increasingly connected world, supporting everything from cloud computing and artificial intelligence to online commerce and social media. However, the rapid expansion of data centers has raised concerns about their substantial electricity demand and its impact on global energy consumption. As a low-carbon energy carrier, hydrogen – along with decentralized energy solutions – can fulfill data centers’ backup power needs.

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With their combination of high energy density, environmental sustainability, and fast response times, hydrogen engine-based backup systems present an opportunity to enhance the resilience and environmental performance of data center operations.

The advantage of the pipeline network

The overarching criterion for decarbonizing data centers' backup supply is to maintain or improve reliability. In this respect, gaseous energy sources have the advantage of a far-reaching and granular distribution network compared to the currently dominant diesel fuels. By replacing diesel engines with gas engines, today’s data center operators can access the huge capacities of these networks as opposed to on-site diesel tanks. In regions such as Europe and North America, measures already are being taken to establish an adequate supply infrastructure for hydrogen as an energy carrier. In addition to the development of hydrogen production and import capacities, measures focus on the rededication of existing gas grids and the development of new hydrogen networks. Furthermore, a variety of trade routes for the export of large-scale hydrogen capacities will be developed on a global level in the coming years. As a result, data center operators face the medium-term challenge of converting their energy supply with a heterogeneous supply infrastructure of sustainable gases.


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Bridging the gap: INNIO Group’s Jenbacher ‘Ready for H2’ engine portfolio

All new Jenbacher power plants are “Ready for H2.” INNIO Group’s engine portfolio is built on a long history of innovation with more than 30 years of experience and expertise in the use of renewable energy sources and hydrogen-rich fuels, such as syngas and process gases for power generation. With Jenbacher technology, engine variants with a corresponding option can be operated with up to 25% (vol) of H2 in the pipeline gas. As hydrogen availability increases, all new plants and most of the currently installed Jenbacher pipeline gas-powered generators can be converted to run on 100% hydrogen. Up to 60% (vol) hydrogen content can be admixed to pipeline gas for use in specific versions of Jenbacher Type 2, 3, 4, and 6 engines. Type 4 engines and CHP systems are available today as dual-gas-fuel solutions capable of running on 100% conventional gas, 100% hydrogen, or mixtures of pipeline gas and hydrogen. INNIO Group is the first energy solution provider to receive an "H2 Readiness" certificate from the world-renowned TÜV Süd for its Jenbacher H2 power plant concept. The independent certification increases investment security for companies in the transition to net zero.


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The Jenbacher J620 genset solution was developed to meet specific data center requirements. Its main features are:

Enhanced electrical starting and fuel supply system. With permanent pre-lubrication, pre-heating, improved port injection, and an advanced control management system, the fast start Jenbacher J620 natural gas genset can provide full output in less than 45 seconds while supporting a single 100% load step.

High reliability. Jenbacher technology can support 99.999% data center availability. Its fast startup capability delivers load within 15 seconds.

Enhanced fuel availability. Pipelines are a more stable and resilient solution than other supply sources. Avoidance of stranded investments. The dual gas concept and H2-readiness of INNIO Group’s Jenbacher power solutions enable data center operators to adjust the backup power system according to the energy system.

Optional combined cooling, heat, and power (CCHP). Since data centers consume a significant amount of energy for both computing operations and cooling, trigeneration systems represent a promising approach to capturing the waste heat generated during electricity production and using it for absorption chillers. CCHP systems can substantially reduce data centers’ energy costs and diminish the need for additional energy-intensive cooling solutions.

Optional myPlant Performance remote connection and monitoring capabilities. INNIO Group’s AI-driven based Asset Performance Management solution enables data center operators to efficiently monitor their fleet’s health in real time, securely and remotely, so they can promptly respond to its needs for improved engine reliability and availability.

Real-world examples of Jenbacher expertise

Jenbacher solutions are sustainable technologies that can meet very different customer requirements in the data center industry. Here are two real-world examples:

INNIO Group’s Jenbacher “Ready for H2” technology was selected by NorthC Datacenters (NorthC) to deliver an emergency backup power solution for its newest data center in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Six Jenbacher hydrogen engines will provide carbon-free emergency backup power in case of an electricity grid outage. The Jenbacher Type 4 hydrogen engines generate a total power output of 6 MW and will be delivered as a containerized package. To provide additional flexibility and security to NorthC, the Jenbacher Type 4 engines are configured as dual-gas engines. In case of an electricity grid outage, they will be operated with hydrogen that is stored on site. For longer duration grid outages, NorthC has the option to switch to pipeline gas should the H2 supply run short.

Winthrop Technologies is taking advantage of INNIO Group's technology now so it can be ready for hydrogen once that fuel is more readily available. Twenty-two containerized Jenbacher engines that can be converted to operate on hydrogen will provide 60 MW of continuous rated power output that are compliant with EU emissions regulations. The power plant will be used for emergency backup power and grid stabilization in times of higher demand and to support renewable power generation. Operating on pipeline gas, the Jenbacher engines emit up to 25% less CO2 and up to 90% less NOx emissions compared to traditionally used diesel generators. The fast-start and scalable Jenbacher Type 6 engines will be installed in a plug-and-play containerized configuration. The Jenbacher island mode solution will allow the Winthrop power plant to operate independently from the national grid during peak times and support the grid during peaking power.


Data centers have been a driving force behind positive change in climate protection over the past decade. With climate-neutral backup and storage systems, they can make a valuable contribution as prosumers to a reliable climate-neutral energy supply. With fuel-flexible energy systems from INNIO Group's Jenbacher product line, data center customers can avoid stranded investments in their decarbonization strategy. Want to know more? Read the full white paper, “Hydrogen-Based Power Generation – A Net-Zero Backup Solution for Data Centers,” available here.

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