Mobile Phones Will See Microgrids Grow

Mobile phone growth will see telecommunication towers grow and they will need cost-effective microgrids.
Published: Fri 26 Sep 2014

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New York firm Urban Green Energy (UGE) sees great potential in the combination of small wind turbines with solar, storage and some intelligence – into a remote microgrid.

Renewable microgrids more cost effective

This is especially true for remote off-grid telecommunication towers that rely on costly diesel generators for power. Some of these towers are connected to the grid but experience unstable power supplies. Now, renewable microgrids provide a less expensive, reliable and clean alternative.

The absence of grid connectivity in isolated and rural areas — especially in developing countries — is forcing end users to retrofit or replace the diesel generator set with cost-effective and efficient hybrid power systems. [Engerati- Clean energy hybrid mini-grids in remote areas: an efficient cost effective solution.

Hybrid solutions are the way forward

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Hybrid Power Systems Market, points to market earned revenues of US$358.4 million in 2013 and estimates this to reach US$552.2 million in 2018 at a compound annual growth rate of nine percent.

According to David Droz, senior project manager for UGE, the renewable microgrid market has become gigantic over the last three years. And the market is about to experience a major boom as Google aims to sell smart phones to the “the next five billion” who are without them. Google has developed a less expensive Android that it has introduced into India and plans to bring before year’s end to Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.)

For UGE, this means even more business for them since mobile phones need telecommunication towers.

“We began working on this internally two years ago. A lot of the customer inquiries we were getting were from telecom companies asking for wind turbines. These were customers that were experiencing some of the highest levelized energy cost in the world. They were burning diesel 24/7,” explains Droz.

Because wind doesn’t blow consistently everywhere and at all times, it cannot be relied upon by big power consumers such as telecommunication towers which need a reliable source of power 24 hours a day. However, when combined with solar, storage and intelligence, the renewable microgrid offers a high level of reliability. Storage solutions are still rather difficult (and relatively expensive) to deploy and therefore, it is important to combine technology and create a hybrid solution. [Engerati-Hybrid Solutions and Skills Transfer is Critical for Africa’s Power Sector.]

Telecommunications realise microgrid benefits

UGE not only provides the microgrid, but the firm also assesses the location of the tower in order to understand the best combination of wind, solar, storage and monitoring and control to achieve lowest possible levelized costs under a 10-year contract.

While it is not easy transporting microgrid equipment to remote locations, the benefits are realised by the telecommunications company when they no longer need to refuel a tower’s site by helicopter which only increases the total cost in the end.

UGE recently announced a US$400,000 order to provide hybrid microgrids for remote telecom towers for an anonymous government entity for use in the Middle East, another growing market. [Engerati – Middle East Telecommunication Tower Operators Turn to Microgrids for Reliable Power.] This adds to the renewable energy projects UGE has worked on in over 90 countries since it was established in 2008.

UGE snapped up the opportunity to accommodate the electricity needs of a fast-growing industry and will certainly reap the rewards in the long run. This is a good lesson in flexibility and innovativeness.