Fuel cell meets base station for the perfect blackout coverage solution

Sustaining network coverage in communities with unreliable grid power is a significant problem in emerging markets, with providers and vendors constantly looking for new ways of providing coverage without relying on diesel generators.

Fuel cell technology is gaining a lot of traction in this area, and this looks set to continue following Nokia Siemens Networks’ announcement that it is partnering with Ballard Power Systems to integrate fuel cell backup into its Flexi Multiradio base station site.

“Mobile networks can be vital when a natural disaster strikes, and power outages make other forms of communication difficult,” said Mark Donaldson, head of energy solutions for mobile broadband networks at Nokia Siemens Networks. “Integrating fuel cells with our base stations can significantly increase the resilience of the mobile networks we provide.”

“Our fuel cell systems provide power for extended periods during outages caused by natural calamities and commercial grid failures,” said Larry Stapleton, vice president of sales, Ballard. “The collaboration with Nokia Siemens Networks has helped us leverage our service and integration expertise in order to deliver an emergency-ready alternative power solution for mobile networks.”

Backup power solutions based on fuel cell technology deliver a number of advantages over conventional batteries and diesel generators. These include higher reliability across a wide range of operating conditions, lower maintenance costs, longer operating life as well as reduced size, weight, installation footprint, noise signature and environmental impact.

The fuel cell weight and size are significantly less in comparison to existing lead acid batteries that are typically used in many base stations to provide backup power for extended outages. The base station and fuel cell combination developed by Nokia Siemens Networks with Ballard can provide 4.5 kW of power for approximately 40 hours on a single tank of fuel.

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