At present cellular base stations are powered either directly from the grid, or by diesel generators. But in future those crucially important devices will utilize the power of the sun or the wind.
In the last few years, the number of worldwide cellular base stations has exploded from the hundreds of thousands to the many millions, creating greenhouse gases and pollution from the power required to run them. Base stations on an electric grid are not the real problem, but as cellular spreads to billions of people in emerging countries, off-grid base stations, which are usually powered by diesel generators running 24/7, proliferate.
“While diesel pollution is an environmental issue, what bothers operators the most is the cost of powering and securing the generators. Diesel fuel has to be trucked to remote sites, and theft of diesel fuel and equipment can cost operators millions of dollars. The solution is for operators to at least partially power remote base stations with wind turbines, solar panels, or both. This is truly a case where it pays to be green,” said Allen Nogee, an In-Stat analyst.
According to In-Stat, by 2014, over 230 thousand cellular base stations in developing countries will be solar-powered or wind-powered and the number of off-grid base stations is growing at 30% per year.
Off-grid base stations are primarily located in Africa, South Asia (including India), South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean, therefore, solar- and wind-powered cellular base stations are likely to become rather popular due to lack of power grids as well as sufficient amount of fuel.