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Vodacom Group

Vodacom tests hybrid renewable and fuel cell energy base station at COP17

Thursday, 8 December 2011

In order to provide uninterrupted cellphone service to the over 15 000 delegates that attended COP17 in Durban over the last two weeks, Vodacom deployed a hybrid-energy base station that uses wind, solar and fuel cell energy.

In developing the base station for COP17, Vodacom found that space limitations at the conference would not allow for a solar array or wind turbine.  The mobile operator, determined to find a green solution to a mobile challenge, developed a hybrid energy system which gains 30 percent of its energy from solar and wind and 70 percent from fuel cell technology.

Fuel cells are quiet, produce no particulate matter and produce negligible emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.  When used in combination with renewable energy, the hybrid system produces only 35 percent of the carbon dioxide of a diesel generator or about 55 percent of the carbon dioxide of what a power grid in South Africa produces.

The service available at COP17 included both GSM and HSDPA services that delivered quality voice and mobile broadband services to delegates and visitors.  The company also provided UN officials responsible for the conference with 500 handsets and SIM cards to ensure that they stayed connected during this crucial period.

Vodacom is no stranger to trialing new technologies that adopt renewable energy to power its base stations. 

At the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, Vodacom's parent company Vodafone showed that base stations that are powered solely by renewable energy are possible.  Even though the GSMA base station was a GSM-only unit, and handled relatively low volumes of traffic, Vodacom pushed the boundaries of traditional technology to find a sustainable solution for COP17. 

The hybrid base station used at COP17 can handle large traffic volumes and data services that can easily be used at large-participation events such as COP17.


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