Vodafone is trialling new energy efficient fuel cells in a bid to reduce carbon emissions in its network.
While electricity grids are the most cost-efficient method of powering infrastructure, Vodafone said some base stations need on-site power generation, particularly in the developing world.
The operator said it is keen to move away from diesel generators, the traditional method of on-site power generation. These suffer from high carbon emissions, are noisy, require large amounts of maintenance and are the target of thieves.
Vodafone said while solar panels can help reduce a diesel generator’s running time and has lower emissions, they are not viable in built up areas.
The operator has turned its attention to fuel cells such as hydrogen, menthol and water. The latter work by separating the component elements and using the hydrogen as a power source.
Vodafone’s Vodacom business in South Africa has been using pure hydrogen cells for the past eight years and has 200 deployed across its network.
The operator has now began trialling new solutions in the Netherlands, as well at its Site Solution Innovation Centre in Johannesburg.
Lee Andrew Jones, Senior Manager: Infrastructure and Energy at Vodafone Group, said: “While we would always like to use renewable energy where possible to power mobile sites, the energy demand is often too large and the capital investment costs too high. Therefore, the optimum solution is typically to combine two energy sources supported by an intelligent on site management controller.
“There is no single technology which qualifies as an ideal energy source in every location where we operate. However, by continuing to test and deploy alternative energy technologies like fuel cells we can minimise the increases in energy consumption and carbon emissions while providing the benefits of mobile data to an ever increasing number of people in emerging markets.”