Market researchers In Stat says the expansion of cellular networks into off grid areas will fueled the growth of cell sites powered by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. According to the firm’s latest research, by 2014, over 230,000 cellular base stations in developing countries will be solar-powered or wind-powered.
The firm estimates that the number of off-grid base stations, presumably including those that are currently powered by diesel generators, is growing at 30% a year, and creating greenhouse gases and pollution from the power required to run them. Base stations on an electric grid aren’t the real problem, the researchers said, but as cellular spreads to billions of people in emerging countries, off-grid base stations, which are usually powered by diesel generators running 24/7, proliferate.
“While diesel pollution is an environmental issue, what bothers operators the most is the cost of powering and securing the generators,” says Allen Nogee, In-Stat analyst. “Diesel fuel has to be trucked to remote sites, and theft of diesel fuel and equipment can cost operators millions of dollars. The solution is for operators to at least partially power remote base stations with wind turbines, solar panels, or both. This is truly a case where it pays to be green.”
Off-grid base stations are primarily located in Africa, South Asia (including India), South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean, In-Stat said.