The number of mobile subscribers are growing at unprecedented rate especially in developing countries. However, most of the population in these countries live in rural areas and it becomes challenging to provide electric power to the base stations in these remote areas. These base stations have limited or no access to grid power and the operators are using off-grid solutions like diesel generators, that are becomming expensive and are non enviromental friendly.
According to Pike Research, the most viable solution is to use clean and cost efficient renewable energy resources such as solar or wind energy. It is expected that nearly 4.5 % of the base stations in the world will be hooked to clean power by 2014. Since most of the energy is spent in cellular network itself, alot of research is going on in making network equipment energy efficient. Pike research believes that lower power requirements for base station makes the integration of renewable energy resources with cellular networks easier. It seems that in future, there is big opportunity for renewable energy bussiness in cellular networks especially in developing markets.
More detail on this topic can be found at the following links
Clean Energy to Power 4.5% of Cell Phone Base Stations
Renewable Energy to Power 4.5% of Mobile Base Stations by 2014, According to Pike Research
These figures are difficult to interpret. Is 4.5% good ? Well it’s up from 0.11% today. Is this only off-grid BS? Are on-grid BS powered from Hydropower included (hardly). I guess you have spend some 1000:s of $ to buy the report in order to find out ;-)
Another technical issue on the off-grid BS is backhaul communication from BSs. I don’t know which one is more urgent and technically challenge to be resolved, power supply or backhaul communication to BSs ?
Connecting the last billion and clean energy is not the same issue. Solar powered base stations will outperform diesel genset in low economy areas. Operators in 24/7 electrical grid countries spend a few % of the total OPEX on energy, no problem there. Operators in diesel genset areas like India and Nigeria have reported 37-60% of OPEX connected to energy(!) Long term usage of solar powered, low energy consuming base stations connected with efficient microwave backhaul enables low economy rural business through OPEX reductions (and not because of CO2 decrease). The clean part that comes with it is no doubt an added and extremely welcome value.
Half of OPEX goes to energy in countries like India and Nigeria. It’s amazing.
It is definitely amazing! It seems we have extra motivation for green radio!