335,000 cellular base stations to include solar power by 2013

As mobile network expansion moves ostensibly to emerging markets where solar energy levels are more favourable, solar power appears ready to play an important role in reducing the costs of cellular service delivery and ensuring a more reliable power supply. The OEMs’ drive toward reducing base station power consumption, along with improvements in photovoltaic cells, have meant that solar energy is now a very viable solution for powering cellular base stations.

ABI Research vice president, Stuart Carlaw commented: “Solar power will first be used in conjunction with other primary energy sources such as diesel or grid-based electricity, but will increasingly be seen as a primary source for autonomous cell sites.” Carlaw added: “The market for autonomous solar powered cell sites looks set to grow from extremely modest levels today to over 40,000 renewable energy sites by the end of 2013. A further 295,000 base stations are expected to supplement on-grid power usage with solar.”

Solar power is at the leading edge of renewable energy’s drive into the mobile network domain, but other interesting opportunities are on the horizon. Wind power has potential in areas that receive less solar energy, but is less predictable. Fuel cells and compressed air hold significant promise for the long term.

ABI Research’s ‘Mobile Networks Go Green’ research report examines the mechanisms being put into place by carriers and infrastructure vendors to reduce power consumption, ranging from network optimization to hardware integration, power amplifier efficiency, and software-based dynamic asset dimensioning. It also considers the opportunity to integrate renewable energy sources into the primary power sources for cell sites, focusing on solar, wind, and hybrid solutions combining renewable cells, grid-based electricity, diesel generation and battery banks.

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