Vodafone Group senior manager of infrastructure and energy Lee Andrew Jones wrote in post on TelecomLead that the operator’s South African operations Vodacom has turned to fuel cells to power sites, particularly sites outside the conventional electricity grid.
“Diesel generators are the traditional solution to this problem, but there are many disadvantages, including high carbon emissions, noise, maintenance needs and theft,” he wrote. “Solar panels can be installed to generate free energy and reduce a diesel generator’s runtime, lowering emissions. However, solar is not always suitable for built up urban areas.”
“Fuel cells, on the other hand, are largely free from harmful emissions because they use alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen, menthol and even water. Water based fuel cells, for example, work on the principle of splitting water into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen, wherein the hydrogen is used as fuel source. Fuel cells are also less attractive to thieves and are quiet running, making them more suitable for use in some urban areas, where noise is a concern.”
According to Jones, Vodacom first started using pure hydrogen fuel cells systems eight years ago and now has more than 200 fuel cell powered sites.
Recently, the company started to look at other fuel sources, but Jones admits that entirely ‘green’ energy sources is still either too limited, or too expensive for mass deployment in most networks. “The optimum solution is typically to combine two energy sources supported by an intelligent on site management controller.”