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Managing Energy Needs: Strategy to reduce power consumption at lower sites

June 13, 2014
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While the power supply scenario has shown a slight improvement over the years, power availability remains inconsistent and unreliable in most areas. Further, soaring diesel prices and the government’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint have rendered diesel usage unviable. The tower industry has taken several steps to better manage energy requirements and reduce power consumption at tower sites. The following are the views of key business leaders in the tower industry and the operations and maintenance segment…

Murali Arikara, Executive Director, Essential Energy

Meeting and managing energy requirements at tower sites is increasingly becoming a concern for tower infrastructure providers. In such a scenario, tower companies need expert advice to manage the energy requirements at sites. At Essential Energy, we provide an opex model, which is not technology specific. If there is existing equipment, we may buy it based on third-party evaluation and then provide energy as a service on a long-term contract basis. Currently, we offer solutions based on solar, biomass and fuel cells along with batteries and diesel generator (DG) sets.

Anil Gupta, Vice-President, Energy, Indus Towers

Over the years, we have deployed DG sets, battery banks and renewable energy solutions to better manage our energy requirements. Achieving operational efficiencies by preventing pilferage is one of the main objectives of the company. In recent years, our focus has shifted towards achieving equipment efficiency. We are working with manufacturers to design robust equipment that eliminates the need for air conditioners at sites and results in energy efficiency of 25-30 per cent. We also undertake load reduction at our tower sites, which involves moving sites from indoors to outdoors. In the past 18 months, we have converted about 15,000 indoor sites to outdoor sites and plan to convert another 15,000 sites in the next two years. The adoption of solar technology at tower sites is also increasing. Currently, we have close to 1,000 sites where we have deployed solar solutions and these sites are mostly located in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa.

Sachin Gupta, Head, Energy Initiatives, Bharti Infratel

Bharti Infratel follows a three-pronged strategy to curtail its energy costs. First is load reduction, wherein the company focuses on eliminating the need for an air conditioner at the tower site. Operators and tower companies today are using outdoor base transceiver stations, which do not require air conditioning. The second strategy is the use of renewables in the energy mix. In addition to non-grid sites, Infratel is deploying solar energy solutions at sites with poor grid connectivity. Currently, the company has about 1,500 sites operating on solar energy. However, solar technology deployment at the sites is challenging as space is a constraint and there are considerations related to the availability of shadow-free areas. Further, sunlight is not available throughout the year and the daily insolation changes from winter to summer. In such a scenario, using a DG-solar hybrid becomes imperative. We have also tried other renewable energy solutions such as biomass, fuel cells and wind but the issue of scalability still remains, given the limited number of suppliers and lack of commercial viability. The third strategy is achieving energy efficiency. We are now using optimised equipment such as integrated power management systems and variable speed DC generators and battery hybrids that are more efficient as compared to conventional ones. Equipment optimisation ensures better management of load at sites.

Ankur Lal, Chief Executive Officer, Infozech

The dynamics of power supply at tower sites has undergone a significant change over the past few years. While diesel consumption continues to grow, grid power availability has improved significantly. There is also a host of battery options available in the market such as lithium-ion, lead acid batteries and valve-regulated lead acid batteries. Further, operators have started exploring renewable energy options seriously. As a result, there are growing complexities with regard to power supply and its management.

One of the biggest challenges that our clients face today is the lack of visibility at tower sites, due to which their return on investment models are often based on one or two parameters and get distorted by the unforeseen entry of a third parameter. For instance, an operator or a tower company can carry out individual calculations for diesel and electricity requirement at tower sites but the metrics will change once a hybrid version of both these sources is used.

Infozech started its journey with diesel data collection and has, over the years, moved to the integrated energy management platform for grid-connected power and diesel. Recently, we have started mapping the whole ecosystem encompassing instruments such as electricity meters, IPMS devices, batteries and DG sets to get a holistic view and improve prediction. This, in turn, is expected to result in better control and management of power at tower sites.

Based on presentations by speakers at tele.net’s Eighth Annual Conference on Telecom Infrastructure in India on April 29-30, 2014 at The Leela Ambience, Gurgaon

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