Q: When is 4.5 percent a lot? A: When it’s up from .11 percent. On the good-news front, that major increase (you do the math, because I just don’t do math) represents an anticipated jump in the number of mobile communications base stations powered by clean energy sources – namely, solar and wind – between today and 2014.
Four-and-a-half percent is also a lot when you consider the ongoing exponential rise in worldwide mobile communications and its required energy-using infrastructure (by the end of 2008 there were an estimated 4.1 billion mobile subscriptions, up from one billion in 2002). These figures, released last week by clean-technology market research firm Pike Research, are particularly important in remote areas, where there’s no (or only cost-prohibitive) access to grid power. In these places, base stations are often powered by dirty diesel generators. This means an even greater increase in clean-powered stations – to an estimated eight percent – in developing countries.
Accelerating the shift to solar and wind power generators, says the New York Times, is increased carbon legislation, price reductions in clean-power technology, and phone companies wanting to reduce high diesel fuel costs. In many cases, new clean-powered base stations in developing countries are using solar/wind hybrid options augmented by emergency backup systems in the form of a fuel cell or a diesel or biomass generator.
Fast Company boils it down: “[It’s] an obvious quick and easy score to reducing the impact of a cell phone network: It doesn’t need cabling, no fuel needs to be shipped to the location or even burned in a remote power station. It can also reduce the cost associated with connecting a base station to the larger grid.”
Image: U K