IHS Africa has opened the continent’s largest solar-powered “cell site” dedicated to the telecommunications industry – specifically cellphone operators.
Nigeria Stock Exchange-listed IHS, a telecoms infrastructure leasing company, last week announced the successful completion and launch of its solar-powered investment. The multi-operator installation is set to see a reduction in carbon dioxide emission of up to 24 000 tonnes a year.
IHS says the cell site is made up of solar panels covering an area of 96m² and will produce a total capacity of 12-kilowatt peak, supplying electricity to three mobile network operators, with further room for expansion.
As operators expand to meet the ever-increasing demand for telecommunications services, says IHS, the need for solar energy grows. The company notes that, while small, single operator solar sites are increasingly being deployed; this project represents the first large multi-operator installation in Africa.
“Rural communities offer a new potential source of revenue for mobile operators, as they continue to expand the roll out of mobile data services. Site access is often difficult in rural areas and connection to an electricity grid is seldom possible or prohibitive in price, so a standalone power system is often required. As the importance of wireless technologies grows, more towers will be needed, placing greater demand on solar power.”
Group CTO of HIS, William Saad, says the company is proud to be a pioneer of solar technology deployment in Africa. “Through 10 years of field experience we have developed a broad range of techniques in diesel reduction and site-optimisation. We are also pleased to see operators increasingly adopting the use of small, single-operator solar-powered cell sites, alongside much larger installations, such as ours, to meet their power demands and reduce costs.
“African countries provide reliable levels of intense sunlight and operators everywhere have similar needs to reduce OPEX, improve uptime and be socially and environmentally sustainable.”
In addition to the cell site providing a practical solution for cellphone operators, Saad says it forms part of the company’s investment programme to reduce diesel consumption by an average of 40% to 50% over the next two years for IHS’s 4 000 generator powered cellular communications towers in West Africa.
“We are committed to reducing carbon emissions and continue to invest in research and development, aided by a grant from the US Trade and Development Agency to assess alternative energy solutions aimed at reducing the use of diesel generators.”
IHS currently has 4 000 towers under management and owns 900 towers for colocation, 90% of which the company will convert to be powered by solar energy.