Cleaner power for telecom sites

The Airtel brand is going places, and aims to get there cleanly. Bharti Airtel, the global telecommunications company with operations in 19 countries across Asia and Africa, has reached some significant milestones in its quest to build an environmentally friendly mobile network and reduce its carbon footprint in Africa.

One of these achievements involves a reduction in the number of telecom sites that are solely powered by diesel generators – more than 50 percent of sites were converted in the past year. This was made possible by overcoming the challenge of a lack of grid connectivity through the use of Hybrid Battery Banks. These are used to collect the excess energy produced by diesel powered generators in batteries, which in turn powers a site once the generator is switched off, helping the company to reduce its use of diesel by up to
14 hours a day.

Close to 60 percent of Bharti Airtel’s telecom sites in Africa are now powered by these hybrid models, resulting in a major reduction of emissions and lower operating costs for the company. The short term goal is to convert over
70 percent of all sites to this form of power provision by the end of 2013, with the company’s long term sights set on using solar and wind power for these sites.

Eben Albertyn, chief technical officer for Bharti Airtel, says these milestones came from the significant steps taken by the company to ensure a reduction in fuel consumption, and active participation in the conservation of the environment. “Our first priority is to reduce the number of sites that are completely reliant on diesel generators,” he says. “We are doing this by connecting these sites to grid electricity in areas where this option is feasible. Where it isn’t, we are exploring alternative forms of power supply, which include Hybrid Battery Banks and solar or wind power.”

The company has also made significant progress in powering sites in certain markets with solar power, even though this forms part of its long term goals. In January and February 2012, 105 solar sites were set up in Niger, reducing diesel generator usage from 24 hours a day to a mere three or four hours.

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