Base stations to be powered by renewables

Mobile phone manufacturers have launched a new initiative with the goal of helping the mobile industry use renewable energy sources, such as solar wind, or sustainable biofuels.

The GSMA announced that its members’ goal is to power 118,000 new and existing off-grid base stations in developing countries by 2012 using renewables producing savings of up to 2.5 billion litres of diesel per annum and cut annual carbon emissions by up to 6.3 million tonnes.

Backed by 25 mobile operators, the Green Power for Mobile programme will provide expertise to support the deployment of base stations that use renewable energy.

The organisation forecasts that by 2012 up to 50 per cent of new off-grid base stations in the developing world could be powered by renewable energy.

Up to now, off-grid base stations have primarily been powered by generators running on diesel fuel, which is increasingly expensive, generates carbon dioxide emissions, and can be difficult to transport to remote locations. 

“Operators need to find reliable, sustainable and economic sources of power far beyond the reach of national electricity grids,” said Rob Conway, CEO and Member of the Board of the GSMA.

The GSMA’s Development Fund estimates that only 1,500 base stations worldwide are powered by at least one form of renewable energy. The GSMA’s research suggests that rising diesel prices and falling renewable equipment costs mean that operators investing in green power sources for base stations could recoup the capital costs in as little as 24 months. 

The GSMA Development Fund is already working with several mobile operators to develop renewable power solutions for a variety of base stations located in diverse geographies.

The Development Fund has supported Digicel’s deployment of wind and solar energy to power 17 new base stations on the Pacific island of Vanuatu.

“Using alternative power solutions, such as harnessing wind and solar energy, will help lower our operational expenditure and reduce our environmental impact, giving people in the more remote islands of Vanuatu access to communications for the first time,” said John Delves, CEO of Digicel Vanuatu.

A pilot run by Ericsson and Idea Cellular now uses waste cooking oil to help power more than 350 base stations in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The base stations run on a blend made up of 80 per cent diesel fuel and 20 per cent waste cooking oil.

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