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Indus Towers launches pilot program to power 2,500 Cell Phone towers with ‘outsourced’ Solar Power model

Indus Towers is India’s largest cell phone tower company owning more than 110,000 towers. The company is owned by Bharti, Vodafone  and Idea cellular with Bharati and Vodafone each having a  42% stake and Idea holding 16%.

According to reports, the company has launched a plan to power 2,5oo towers using Solar in an initial program. The company formed three years ago, hosts 48% of all cell-phone antennas in the country. It also accounts for more than a third of the three lakh telecom towers in India.

According to the company, it has decided to go for an ‘outsourced’ model of solar power production. It has entered into agreements with six companies which will bear the initial cost of putting up the solar installations and maintaining them.

In return, Indus will pay a fixed amount every month.

“Solar is about 20-25% cheaper than diesel,” says a company official, while not revealing the exact numbers.

According to the company, it consumes three million units of electricity a year, enough to power more than one million Indian homes and is the single-largest power consuming company in each of the 16 states where it has operations.

In a recent study, as Panchabuta has reported earlier, use of diesel generators in cellphone towers leads to a staggering five million tonnes of annual carbon emissions in India and there is a need to replace them with solar panel. With the number of mobile phone users in the country swelling rapidly, telecom operators are going in for more high-intensity cellphone towers for better network efficiency entailing a massive consumption of diesel — about two billion litres every year — for power generation to run them.

Panchabuta believes this is a huge opportunity and in discussion with some of the senior technical experts from the tower companies is given to understand that the telecom industry is looking for complete hybrid solutions that can match the expectations of the telecom tower infrastructure players and their availability and service levels.

Further the energy costs is about 8% of the revenue generated for most operators and power and fuel contributes to about 25% of the total network cost.

They are also looking to the cleantech industry not just to provide Solar panel solutions but provide complete solutions. Most tower companies are looking at the ‘outsourced’ kind of model above where they are looking at a OPEX fee model from generated savings to create a win-win solution and help promote green and cleantech companies.

This model can easily be replicated in the Railways and Defence sectors in specific applications.

The department of telecom (DoT) plans to provide subsidies and incentives to operators using renewable energy.

Some of the incentives include 30 per cent subsidy on the total cost of making 200 towers eco-friendly in a certain area and supporting the rollout of eco-friendly towers in rural areas.

“With many telecom towers set in rural areas where power is a major problem, diesel has become the major source to provide continuous telephone network. Renewable energy solutions such as solar cells or hydrofuels will ensure that at least the power requirements of the towers in rural areas are solved,” a DoT official said.

 Panchabuta has earlier reported that, a proposal is being finalized  by the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) that is aimed at containing the use of polluting diesel generators to provide back-up power for cellphone towers.

There has been a lot of activity in the cell phone tower space with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) awarding a tender for powering Cellphone sites using Solar Energy in Western Uttar Pradesh in India.

Soon after, Air Liquide announced of a pilot project with Bharti Airtel to run telecom towers using hydrogen and most recently, Electro Power Systems Italy announced the launch of  ElectroSelf, the first self-recharging fuel cell system in India for backup power for telecom towers.

Recently, a new solar power system designed specifically for the Indian telecom market has been launched by Eltek Valere, a provider of high efficiency power systems.

Just a couple of days back, Delta Group announced the introduction of hybrid Renewable Energy Solutions (RenE) for Telecom Customers to Optimize Green Energy.

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