Here are two clean energy ideas that deal with bringing power to cell towers in off-grid locations, where diesel generators are the norm. Before I present them, let’s think about the obvious drawbacks of diesel:
• Needs to be trucked in
• Can be stolen (very common problem in the developing world)
• Carries high maintenance cost of equipment
• Creates pollution
Here’s a company that offers a solution, running the generators at higher load levels and storing the excess power in batteries. They promise huge increases in efficiency, and an ROI in under two years. Personally, I doubt these claims; I need to speak with a few satisfied customers who can corroborate all this.
Another idea, believe it or not, is WindStream. I know I’ve been writing a great deal about them and their “TurboMill” and “SolarMill” (combination of microwind turbines and solar panels) recently. But check out their solution to wind power for cell towers.
Obviously, it’s not the only way to use renewable energy for this application, but here you’re taking advantage of superstructure, i.e., the existing tower height, to get far better wind conditions than are available near the ground. Combining this approach with solar, and adding in battery storage to provide continuous power, is the best way for cell tower operators to save money and reduce their emissions.