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UK fuel Cell Powers India telcos

The latest generation of hydrogen fuel cell power unit, developed by Intelligent Energy in the UK, has been successfully operated at a mobile telecom tower site in India.

This milestone event represents the first phase of a commercial roll out of fuel cell units which will, over time, power a portfolio of telecom towers where Intelligent Energy’s subsidiary, Essential Energy India, is providing power management services.

Essential Energy currently has more than 10,000 towers under contract since it began acquiring customers in 2014, representing a 100MW installed power estate and equivalent to annualised revenues of circa $75.8m (£50m). The wholly owned operating business of Intelligent Energy expects to target, in the medium term, a market share of the Indian telecom tower segment which translates to a revenue opportunity of circa $1bn (£650m) per annum.

The fuel cell unit was installed at a telecom tower, owned and operated by Ascend Telecom, in Uttar Pradesh West, a challenge due to its remote location and regular grid power outages.

The Indian telecom infrastructure owner and service provider already uses Essential Energy’s energy management services at a number of sites currently powered by diesel generators and batteries when the power grid is down.

Following this phase, over time Essential Energy expects a majority of telecom tower sites within its estate to be capable of the transition from traditional power supplies to hydrogen fuel cell based solutions.

Despite recent halving of wholesale oil prices, hydrogen fuel cell installations across a majority of telecom tower sites will still offer a more economical power supply than traditional diesel generators, representing a significant potential cost saving for customers.

Data taken from telecom sites reveals that over a six month period to Dec 2014, Essential Energy has improved site power availability significantly while reducing fuel usage by 18%. Consistent power supply is crucial to a country whose mobile phone users are more than 935million and where telecom towers are currently numbered more than 400,000 and are estimated to increase significantly over the coming years.

Sushil Kumar Chaturvedi, Director and CEO of Ascend Telecom, said: “As a forward thinking tower operator, we are committed to utilising the latest and best technologies to improve our services. Our partnership with Essential Energy is already producing significant benefits at a number of our field telecom sites. With the introduction of their innovative power management processes, even on legacy power equipment, power availability has increased while operating costs have been optimised. In a country where power outages at mobile base stations are commonplace, this means many more people across India remain connected.”

Peter Brown, Essential Energy’s Managing Director, added: “The initial results show that our power management system delivers vast improvements on reliability and a reduction in operating costs. Currently, with power outages so numerous in India, diesel generators remain the main back up power source. As a fuel, diesel is costly, inefficient and emits high levels of CO2 as well as harmful carcinogenic particulate emissions.

“However, as we convert more telecom towers to hydrogen powered fuel cells, we will be delivering a scalable, reliable and clean power solution which is more efficient to operate and reduces running costs even further.”

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