April 7, 08
E-Site Solar-Wind Mobile Phone Base Station Cuts Diesel Costs By 80%

Swedish startup Flexenclosure thinks it has the solution for energy-efficient mobile phone coverage in developing nations – and unlike some ideas it's actually sounding pretty darn straightforward.

The company estimates that there are 40,000 base stations in Africa, and most of those rely on a diesel engine for power. Each base station takes anything up to 5200 gallons of the increasingly expensive hydrocarbon soup each year to ensure that people will be able to use their mobile phones. That's around 210,000,000 gallons of diesel every single year, which isn't good for the environment or the profit margins of the mobile providers.

Flexenclosure's E-site isn't much more than the implementation of existing technologies in the interests of lowering reliance on burning hydrocarbons in areas where access to a national power grid isn't a possibility. Each site comprises a traditional base station – complete with diesel generator – with solar panelling for a roof and a wind turbine sited at the top of the antenna mast.

The clever part is in the software, rather than the hardware. The E-site runs an 'intelligent' operating system capable of adapting to local conditions. Stefan Jern, CEO of Flexenclosure, says by example that if the unit is running low on juice but knows that the sun will be coming up soon “it won't use the diesel generator.” The idea is to get the base station running on the best available energy source at any given time.

The technology has the potential to lower diesel usage by up to eighty percent – that's a saving of 169,000,000 gallons of diesel each year for African telcos; and that's the byproducts of burning 169 million gallons of diesel that won't be entering our atmosphere.

The company is hoping to start selling their eco-friendly base stations to suitable countries – that'll be ones with a decent amount of sunshine – by the end of this year. With oil prices likely to keep rising, it's a technology that can't come too soon.