Innovator Spotlight: Ben Rapp Recognized for Industry-Advancing Accomplishments

While Kohler’s power solutions is renowned for its superior product design and manufacturing, behind all the hardware and technology is a team of highly skilled engineers, designers, and technicians. The company’s unwavering focus on quality and continuous improvement is driven by hands and minds who work collaboratively to push the boundaries of what's possible in power generation. Today, let’s take a look at one of the star team members for Kohler’s data center backup power solutions: Ben Rapp.

Rapp has had a big year, culminating in his win for Young Talent of the Year 2024 at the DataCloud Global Awards. Ben has been instrumental in the Kohler organization in enabling the company’s sustainable future initiatives. His role as manager of business development for clean energy has him balancing both the immediate implementation of commercially viable green solutions while also looking forward to what technologies and solutions should be incubated now for the future. Here’s a deeper dive into what Rapp has been working on, and how he stands as a shining example for how Kohler’s committed team members are driving the data center industry forward.

New HVO Solutions for Environmental Expedition

Rapp played a crucial role in leading the innovative 2023 Undaunted Expedition in collaboration with renowned environmentalist Rob Swan. The expedition took Swan across the Antarctic landmass to the Geographic South Pole, relying solely on renewable energy sources. The purpose of the project was to address the preservation of Antarctica and the planet through promoting renewable energy and sustainability to combat the effects of climate change. Rapp contributed by designing a custom, one-of-a-kind power generator running on biofuels to support Swan’s telecommunication equipment. Besides guiding the expedition, the communication equipment was also used to interact with school children around the world as part of a global environmental education program—all powered by Rapp’s unique sustainable power solution.

Rapp learned about Swan’s mission to protect Antarctica and support global sustainability, inspiring him to contribute to the continent-crossing expedition aimed at raising environmental awareness. Swan's team required robust communication capabilities to run their educational programs and promote sustainability. They had a partnership with NTT for connectivity, but lacked a sustainable power solution for their IT equipment. Rapp proposed a unique renewable energy solution, leading a team to develop a custom, eco-friendly generator using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). This generator, housed in a lightweight, wind-proof enclosure, was part of an integrated microgrid system that combined solar power, batteries, and other renewable sources, ensuring reliable, clean energy for the expedition. Rapp played a pivotal role from conception through implementation, including on-site support in Antarctica, thereby enabling the expedition to successfully leverage digital technology for global environmental education. Overall, this breakthrough underscores HVO's important role in reducing the environmental footprint of backup power systems while supporting the seamless adoption of low-carbon, renewable energy sources.

Pioneering Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology

Concurrently with the Antarctica endeavor, Rapp embarked on another project at Kohler in 2023, focusing on the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cells for data centers. Power possibilities with hydrogen represent an opportunity to be the next generation fuel source for data centers that will prove to be revolutionary from an environmental perspective, as it can reduce data center emissions by up to 99%. Thanks in part to Rapp, such a technology is now on the market.

Recognizing the potential of hydrogen fuel cells to provide reliable, pollution-free backup power, he led Kohler’s transition of this technology from research and development to market readiness. The multifaceted nature of the project involved research and development efforts, where Rapp led the project along with product management, sales, and customer engagement, aiming to meet market needs for decarbonization solutions. This effort culminated in a partnership with Toyota and the launch of a pilot project, showcasing a 100-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell solution aimed at reducing data center carbon footprints without sacrificing performance. All in all, this project marked a significant step towards larger-scale data center implementations, demonstrating Kohler's commitment to sustainable, zero-emission energy solutions. Thanks to Rapp’s critical role in furthering Kohler’s hydrogen fuel cell project, Kohler is now one step closer in their industry-leading efforts to commercialize the technology for data centers everywhere.

People Make The Progress

Through these projects, Rapp has significantly contributed to advancing engineering innovation, sustainability, and the promotion of environmental consciousness, setting new benchmarks for the data center industry and beyond. His efforts reinforce Kohler’s commitment to sustainability, committing to a future that aims for zero-emission solutions for the data centers worldwide.

Simply put, it’s the people who make the difference. From design to after-sales support, it’s Kohler’s top-notch teams that are consistently delivering reliable, high-performance generators that meet the diverse needs of data centers all over the world.

To hear from Rapp about these projects and his nomination for a DataCloud Global Award, click here. Or, to hear Rapp speak in depth about the future of distributed energy resources and microgrids in the data center sector, click here

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