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Bharti Infratel, OMC to power mobile towers using green energy solutions

According to reports, tower company Bharti Infratel on Thursday teamed up with OMC Power, a renewable energy service company (Resco), for powering its off-grid and poor grid telecom tower sites in rural areas using renewable energy solutions.

The move will complement Infratel’s green energy drive to actively promote use of renewable sources to power its towers.

Bharti Infratel is the hived off tower arm of Bharti Airtel and runs in seven of the 22 regions in the country with about 33,000 towers, of which 9000 are in off-grid / poor grid locations.

OMC, in turn, is a power company that funds, builds, operates and maintains micropower plants so that tower companies and telcos can buy electricity directly from it rather than running their own diesel gensets, solar panels or wind turbines.

Under the partnership with Infratel which will be valid over a 10-year span, OMC will set up micropower plants in off-grid and low grid locations. These power plants will generate electricity, primarily using renewable energy sources and energise Infratel’s tower sites. This is slated to reduce dependence on diesel gensets for powering these towers.

The Bharti Infratel-OMC pact is likely to benefit rural households in the local community vicinity by supplying them basic electricity. After conducing joint trials, OMC has built the first micropower plant in UP as part of a 10-year agreement.

Infratel’s chief technical officer & O&M head Sairam Prasad said the Resco model would help tower companies whose core competency is enabling telecom reach.

“”While progress has been made in providing telecoms in rural areas, this has been largely achieved without grid-power availability, a key ingredient in providing telecom uptime to this critical infrastructure,”” said Prasad.

Infratel’s decision to invest sizeable sums in green energy solutions comes on the heels of its recent pilot, the GreenTowers P7 initiative, which focussed sharply on slashing diesel usage and carbon emissions across its tower network.

At present, Indian tower firms collectively have some 400,000 sites and spend a humongous Rs 8,500 crore annually on diesel, says consultancy firm AT Kearney. Off these, about 70,000 are not fed by grid power, but only about 5,000 have switched to solar power since the cost of powering towers through solar energy can be exorbitant at Rs 40 per unit when compared to Rs 6 per unit for grid power.

OMC Power’s co-founder & CEO Anil Raj said its micropower plants have been designed for rural areas. “”We have moved power from capex to opex and can supply power at a better price than operators can by doing it themselves,”” he said in a media statement.

OMC has teamed up with top technology companies to build its micropower plants and is using a combination of wind, solar, diesel and battery back-up to ensure a constant supply of power. Using a hybrid of techniques means that at any point in time, power will be drawn from the most suitable source with little or no wastage.

Areef Kassam, manager of GSMA’s Green Power for Mobile programme, said: “”The telecom market is in need of more Rescos like OMC to help mobile operators and tower companies reduce costs at off-grid rural sites.””

With more than 1.4 billion people living without access to power and 500 million off-grid mobile connections, operators are constantly looking for new ways to provide a commercially viable service””.

Leading industry bodies representing the GSM, CDMA and tower service providers have engaged The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) to create a blueprint to implement green solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. It will suggest ways for tower companies to cut diesel consumption.

More than 2 billion litres of diesel is used to run gensets to ensure uninterrupted power supply that in turn allows continuous mobile connectivity even in rural areas where grid electricity is in short supply.

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