Here's a trick question for you: How do you power mobile telecommunications base stations in the middle of nowhere, especially in developing countries where there's no electricity line in sight.
Apparently, the standard operating procedure has been to schlep diesel fuel from location to location, with a four-wheel drive vehicle, hoping not to attract the attention of fuel pirate who might have other ideas for your cargo. This, quite obviously, isn't all that efficient.
Enter a new initiative being spearheaded by network technology provider Alcatel-Lucent, which recently deployed what it's calling the first hybrid-powered base station in Qatar on behalf of Vodafone Qatar. The base station, which runs off wind turbines and solar panels, was installed under the auspices of Alcatel's Alternative Energy Program.
Under that initiative, Alcatel is aiming to install more than 100,000 mobile base stations that use alternative energy sources between 2010 and 2012. Not only will this save approximately 7 million per year in carbon dioxide emissions, it will actually will enable base stations in areas of the world that are remote and otherwise hostile to an installation.
Frederic Wauquiez, marketing manager for eco-sustainable solutions at Alcatel-Lucent, says his company has developed a set of services to help plan, design, develop and deploy these solutions -- which will differ depending on the specific sites. Right now, there are about 3,000 mobile base station sites in the world that are powered by alternative energy. However, he estimates there are roughly 1 billion people around the globe who don't have access to mobile phone services, because there is no power for the base stations.
The technology at the Qatar site had to be smart enough to switch between wind and solar, depending on the local conditions. It also carefully monitors that battery charging times and levels, for times when the renewable sources are in a lull. There is a diesel generator back-up in case something is amiss. This video runs you through more details.
This is all very cool, but is anyone else wondering about the next logical, if rhetorical, question: If there's no power to the site in the first place, how do the mobile phones using the network get charged?