As part of measures to reduce the rate of downtime in Nigeria’s telecommunication sector due to persistent power collapses and rising fuel costs, most Nigerian telecommunication companies are deploying solar facilities to power their base towers and drive down operational cost.
This was confirmed in a statement EnergyDay obtained from Daystar Power, a West African provider of hybrid solar power solutions to commercial and industrial (C&I) businesses.
According to the solar provider which is now operating as a subsidiary of Shell’s Renewables & Energy Solutions, most African telecom companies are solarizing their base towers to improve service reliability and lower costs.
Daystar noted that telecommunication companies consider costs, benefit to customers, and savings before switching from diesel/gas powered plant to solar facilities.
It said, “In northern Nigerian states such as Kano, the yield from the sun is better and there are no issues with cloudy weather. If Telcos switched to solar there, telco towers would only need to be refueled every 5 days. The results were significant.
“Another remote site in Katsina took three days to refuel. Money can be saved by switching to renewables and reducing engineer visits from three times a month to just once each quarter.
Wole Abu, former CEO of Pan African Towers (PAT) and telecommunications expert, who shared invaluable insights on the growth of solar plant installation in Nigeria, said about 70 percent of downtime in Nigeria’s telecoms sector is due to power issues.
“Our network stabilizes significantly because we switched to solar. There is more space too in northern Nigeria,” said Abu.
EnergyDay’s check also confirmed that Vanu, a provider of equipment, tools and services and Information Connectivity Solutions Limited (ICSL) have helped mobile network operators to profit by serving off-grid communities.
Vanu and ICSL have installed and currently maintain multiple solar-powered network base stations enabling users in previously uncovered areas to access, for the first time, cellular network connectivity and the internet.
Vanu said that its systems are specifically designed to be deployed and operated jointly with local partners in remote locations, using solar power to avoid the high costs, inconvenience and environmental damage of diesel-powered generators.
It said, “These systems are easy and low cost to install, commission and maintain, and include a suite of services that can provide a turnkey solution, from commercial feasibility and network design through operations, maintenance and support.
“The partner platform enables local technology providers to access new business opportunities and revenue streams generated by the successful deployment of innovative connectivity solutions across previously uncovered off-grid areas,” the solar company said.
Vanu further revealed that it is partnering with local companies in order to efficiently duplicate its entire deployment process across hundreds of planned sites, using trained, local technicians.
EnergyDay gathered that Airtel Nigeria currently operates a number of solar powered base stations.Some of the stations were upgraded from diesel powered base stations to green energy solutions.
Airtel confirmed that the ‘green’ mobile initiative was dedicated to improving operations and minimizing base stations’ environmental impact.
The leading telecommunication company revealed that the facilities were developed and manufactured by Flexenclosure, a specialist provider of intelligent site power management solutions for off-grid base station sites to substantially reduce diesel consumption and CO2 emissions.
The statement from Airtel said that the E-site is mainly powered by renewable energy sources and uses a battery bank for storage of energy. It added that the sophisticated control system ensures that maximum power is captured from renewable energy sources and that the use of the battery bank is highly efficient.
The telco in Nigeria however revealed that it has entered into agreement with Ericsson for implementation and maintenance services for all the sites.
Jan Embro, President of Ericsson for sub-Saharan Africa, in a recent statement said, “Limiting dependency on fossil fuels brings many advantages, but the greatest is the ability to offer sustainable connectivity to low-income users in remote areas across Africa.”