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Published on March 24th, 2010 | by Mridul Chadha


Solar Powered Cellphone Towers In India To Reduce 5 Million Tons CO2 Emissions, Save $1.4 Billion Every Year

March 24th, 2010 by  

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of the Indian government is likely to come out with a mandate that would require telecom operators to transform their cellphone towers from being powered by diesel generators to solar panels.


The ministry had earlier invited proposals for establishing power supply technologies based on renewable energy sources other than solar and wind. However, now it seems that the ministry would go ahead with solar-based power systems and is looking to incorporate this project into India’s National Solar Mission which aims at setting up 20,000MW of solar power capacity by 2022. Such a move would not only help the government achieve this ambitious goal but would also allow the ministry get subsidies for the telecom and tower operators for installation of solar power systems.

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 has about 500 million mobile phone subscribers, more than even the population of any country except China, but 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

Carbon emissions from diesel = 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 th 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.

via The Hindu

Photo Credit: ASurroca on Flickr (Creative Commons)

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

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About the Author

currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

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