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The World Bank estimates that 75% or more of the 7.3 billion people on Earth use cell phones, and Cisco forecasts an 11-fold increase in mobile traffic by 2018. Telecommunications companies are expanding their operations to meet higher demand, especially in developing and emerging regions – where the power grid may be unreliable or nonexistent.
Serving subscribers in emerging regions often means towers and base stations occupy off-the-grid, rough terrain such as mountaintops, forests and jungles, and deserts. Telecom companies have long relied upon diesel generators to power remote installations. However, diesel runs at lower efficiency, is becoming more costly, and produces high CO2 emissions. In fact, diesel generators can account for over 20% of a telecom company’s operating expenses.
Saving money and improving the environment
To reduce the dependency on diesel generators at remote sites, telecom companies have begun to adopt battery-based power solutions that may include integrated solar energy. Rather than continuously running a diesel generator at lower capacity, a battery solution allows the generator to run at higher capacity for shorter periods of time.
Here’s how it works: The generator charges the batteries when running at more efficient, higher loads, and the batteries discharge to support the site loads when the generator is switched off. Such a hybrid system can cut telecom tower operating expenses by more than 35% and greatly reduce carbon emissions. Integrating a solar solution can further reduce the dependence on diesel.
Designing a battery-based solution
Every site is unique in terms of environmental conditions, load profile, number of generators, monitoring needs, and grid reliability. However, the overall approach and principles for designing a battery-based solution for telecom tower sites are the same for any installation.