Digicel Pacific, who operate a cell phone network in Papua New Guinea, has put in solar panels for some of its cell towers, not so much to protect one of the purest natural environment on earth, but to drive better operational efficiency and cut the cost of powering its network.
According to Eltek Valere, who provided its Flatpack2 HE Solar Charger and the Flatpack2 rectifier power conversion solution to support Digicel’s roll out, the new installations are yielding significant improvements in both areas.
Digicel use to power the sites with batteries charged by diesel generations that ran all day long. The set up, which required a monthly refueling run by helicopter, was operating at an efficiency level of only 20% and at a cost of US$6 kWh. With the installation of the hybrid system and photovoltaic panels, the daily average generator run time for the sites has been reduced to just 4 hours, and efficiency of the sites have been boosted to 80%-90%, with the average costs per kWh now coming in at just US$1, according to Eltek Valere.
While cost and operational efficiency is the obvious benefit for Digicel in this scenario, the environments, one of the most pristine in the world, should also benefit since less refueling trips for the helicopters now doubt mean less pollution and disturbance for the wildlife.
An integral part of the solution was an Eltek Valere DC power system that converted both solar and generator power into 48V DC for the load. The Eltek Valere solution is composed of the Flatpack2 HE Solar Charger and the Flatpack2 rectifier, as well as the Smartpack Controller, which manages the entire system, monitoring battery power levels and input voltage levels from the solar system and switching between the solar system and the diesel gen-set, the company said. The Smartpack features also include advance battery monitoring routines, as well as gen-set optimization programs. The Flatpack2 HE Solar Charger connects to four to six solar panels and converts the solar power into controlled 48VDC for supply to telecom equipment.
“Digicel Pacific faced a unique challenge in building a network across a country with topography as difficult as Papua New Guinea,” said Kenneth Bodahl, Managing Director of Asia Pacific for Eltek Valere. “Rather than fight the environment, we were able to provide them with a flexible power solution that enabled them to both expand their network while cutting costs dramatically.”