Base stations powered by renewable energy are essential in bringing mobile telephony into underserved markets in Africa, particularly to locations where the electrical grid is absent. In these places renewable energy helps replace the reliance operators have on diesel-powered base stations, which bring their own problems of supply, increasing costs and pollution.
Although the penetration of renewable energy base stations remains quite low, analysts predict spectacular growth over the next few years, particularly in emerging markets. Green analysts Pike Research estimate that in 2010 just 0.11% of base stations worldwide are powered by renewable power, such as solar or wind turbines. By 2014 this will have risen to 4.5% of worldwide base stations, and an impressive 8% of all base stations in developing countries.
"As solar and wind equipment become more cost-effective in the next few years, renewable energy will be an increasingly attractive option for base station power, in combination with batteries and fuel cells," says Pike Research managing director Clint Wheelock. In addition, Pike Research points out that the energy demands of base stations are becoming lower through energy efficient network design initiatives from both manufacturers and operators.
The technology for green base stations has already been around for some time, with vendors such as Flexenclosure supplying turn-key solutions. These include the renewable energy power plant and rechargeable battery backup to ensure continuous operation. France Telecom Group has been extremely active in this area and recently won a Green Power innovation for its renewable base station initiative with renewable energy specialist Tenesol. The Orange solar deployment programme now covers more than 900 base stations across 13 countries within the Group's footprint.
After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.