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India currently has around 300,000 telecom towers and would require another 150,000 within the next three years to keep up with the demand. Currently, the total carbon emissions from telecom towers in India is 11.76 billion pounds or 5.3 million tonnes, annually. The annual cost of diesel incurred in running the towers across India is estimated at Rs 64 billion.
These figures indicate that the telecom sector is emerging as the largest consumer of energy in India, highlighting the growing need to promote the adoption of renewable energy options for the Indian telecom sector. Use of solar powered cellphone towers would reduce more than 5 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
Alternative energy options including solar and wind energy can address the challenge of unavailability of reliable power supply in semi-urban, rural and remote areas, thus enabling telecom connectivity for the remote parts of the country. Renewable resources of energy will not only cut down the operational expenditure (OPEX) by around 15-20 per cent but also hold a viable alternative to the power crisis under rising fuel prices. If we make an estimate considering around 120,000 telecom towers in rural areas that run on diesel gensets for almost 12 hours a day consuming 24 litres of diesel, the cost of running these towers will work out to around Rs 3 billion per month. Thus, it has become imperative for the telecom operators to look for alternative sources of fuel to run these stations, such as solar power, wind power, biodiseal, biogas, etc., which may provide feasible solutions to the problem and also contribute towards a greener environment with zero emissions.
India has more than 250,000 cellphone towers which consume 3-5 kilowatts power depending on the number of operators using the tower. These towers consume about 2 billion litres (about 530 million gallons) of diesel every year.
Cellphone towers are quite energy intensive as they use power non-stop without any interruption. Air conditioning of the equipment housed in the nearby hubs also takes up substantial amounts of energy. Thus any change in the power generation method of cellphone towers would make tremendous impact in terms of resource savings and reduction in carbon emissions.
India continues to be one of the two fastest growing telecom markets. With telecom operators looking to expand operations in the rural areas, even more telecom towers are set to come up.
Reduction in carbon emissions
- Taking a conservative approach and assuming no increase in number of towers India.
- Number of towers = 250,000
- Diesel used every month = 530 million gallons= 22.2 pounds/gallon
- Total carbon emissions from cellphone towers annually = 11.76 billion pounds or 5.3 million tons
- Cost of diesel every year (average price of diesel = $0.7) = $1.4 billion (INR 6400 Crore)
- Thus by replacing diesel generators with solar panels in cellphone towers more than 5 million tons of carbon emissions could be prevented from entering the atmosphere.
- Although the reduction in carbon emission seems less but the idea behind the program holds extreme importance in the case of all processes which run continuously. Even a slight reduction in resource usage or improve in efficiency in continuous processes makes a huge difference in the long term.
- India is expected to have one billion mobile phone subscribers by 2015 which would mean about 250,000 more mobile towers which, in turn, would double the carbon emissions saved. Even if the solar panels supply a part of the total power required, it would still save substantial amounts of money, fuel and carbon emissions.