Calling on Clean Energy: Mobile Phone Base Stations Go Green


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

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at