Telecom towers and solar energy: reduce diesel consumption and energy costs with battery-based and grid-tie solutions

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Over the last decade there has been a phenomenal growth in cellular subscriptions across the world. By the end of 2014, there will be more mobile devices in use than people on Earth!

To serve this growing demand for connectivity, the network of telecom towers has expanded to far-flung regions of the world. Towers might be sited in remote regions (mountaintops, forests and jungles, deserts) where the grid is nonexistent, or in areas with notoriously unstable grid supplies of electricity. As a result, telecom towers infrastructure companies (towercos) in these regions have long relied on diesel generators as a source of power. But diesel generators run at a lower efficiency level, have become more costly to operate, and produce high CO2 emissions. A battery-based solution—including solar power options—can reduce operating expenses by >35%. Several of these telecom towers also operate in regions with a stable grid supply, but no matter where the telecom tower is located, towercos operators face the unavoidable pain point of high energy bills.

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Profit and loss statement of a typical tower company in an emerging market. Grid power and diesel cost can exceed 35% of a company’s revenue.

Towers in regions with an unreliable grid or no grid supply

Towercos who operate these towers depend primarily on diesel generators for their energy. These companies face high operating costs due to rising diesel costs and the cost of transportation of diesel to the site, along with the frequent maintenance of their diesel generators.

Another major issue related to the heavy dependence on diesel generators is the high levels of noise and air pollution. Several telecom tower sites across the world have addressed these issues by deploying battery-based solutions from Schneider Electric.

There are typically two major approaches addressed by battery-based solutions:
• Charge-discharge cycling (CDC) of batteries to reduce diesel cost
• Solar integration to further reduce diesel costs

Learn more about our Conext XW+ battery-based telecom solution.

Towers in regions with reliable grid supply

At sites where there is a reliable grid, solar PV generation can be integrated to help you reduce grid dependency and most importantly, to lower your energy bills. A typical load at a telecom site powers radio communications, but in hot regions, these sites will also need air conditioning running at all times (a typical load can easily be between 2-4 kW). With this additional cooling load, the site demands more energy which results in higher expenses. By integrating a grid-tie system, the generation of solar PV power will now help offset the peak load demand during the hottest hours of the day, helping you reduce energy costs.

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Learn more about our Conext RL and CL grid-tie telecom solutions.


About the Author: Lovepreet Dhunna