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BSNL solar plan runs into cash trouble

According to reports, BSNL, a state-owned telecom company, has plans to replace diesel generators with solar panels to power its mobile phone towers in the city, but the cost and lack of space is holding it back.

Of the 2,400 cellphone towers in the city, only 1,400 are independent. The rest are shared with other operators. The annual expenditure on diesel is nearly Rs 7 crore. Generators are used when there is a power cut otherwise, power is taken from the grid.

“After conducting an energy audit, we thought of installing solar panels. This will not only reduce our diesel expenditure but also be less polluting,” said a BSNL official.

In 2010-11, BSNL Chennai region spent Rs 60 crore on energy charges.

“The cost has been increasing. It was Rs 47 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 54 crore in 2009-10. Hence we are implementing energy conservation methods, and using solar energy is one of them,” said the official.

Though BSNL is interested in going solar, it is in a fix due to the high cost of solar panels. “It costs Rs 27 lakh to install a solar unit to meet the running needs of a tower and thousands of rupees for maintenance. A diesel generator would cost only Rs 3 lakh,” said the official.

While it would cost them Rs 28 to generate one kilowatt of electricity per hour using solar energy, BSNL has to pay just Rs 6 for the electricity board’s power.

“The huge cost is one of the reasons why we are apprehensive about installing the system. If the government provides the panel at a subsidised cost we would be more than willing to use renewable energy,” said the official.

The other issue is lack of space.

“We need 150 sq m area to set up a unit that generates 10 kilowatt per hour. This is possible only in rural areas. We are not able fi,” said the official. BSNL region office is planning to set up windmills in rural areas to run the mobile towers, he said.

BSNL has set an energy usage reduction target of 10% for the current year.

“We have a core team to take care of energy conservation and we have been able to save Rs 12.8 lakh per annum,” said an official. BSNL is also trying out solar geysers and renewable energy units in its offices across the city.

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