Demonstration Project for Power Supply to Telecom Stations through FC technology
Key Objectives of the project
The Project will conduct an EU-wide set of field trials that demonstrates the industrial readiness and market appeal of power generation systems for off-grid Radio Base Stations based on fuel cell technology and photovoltaic panels.
Fuel cells may represent a real alternative to standard power sources (batteries and diesel generators) for off-grid Telecom applications and the project aims to prove their advantages to potential customers in different industrial sectors. Therefore, the FCpoweredRBS Project solution will demonstrate the advantage of a Cells power generation solution substituting standard Diesel generators with a PEM Fuel Cell generator.
While Telecom applications are widely seen as an early market for these technologies, a wide demonstration of their performances under real operating conditions is fundamental to assess their potential as well as to determine their real strength.
This demonstration project, aiming to test FC and H2 on a complete field, will constitute the largest such undertaking of its kind in Europe and will contribute to assess the market readiness of FC and the relative H2 infrastructure for this early market.
The main issue of the project is the integration of different technologies, i.e. telecom stations, different fuel cells systems, photovoltaic panels, batteries and to show business advantages of green alternative energy and renewable energy solutions versus traditional ones in the telecom market.
Remotely located RBS for Telecom application are becoming more and more important with the increasing penetration of mobile services. As for many of these stations, the connection to the electricity grid is not an option, specific off-grid power generation solutions are required which are quite often based on diesel fuel generators.
Photovoltaic and small wind generation are the standard generation system although their inherent unpredictable characteristics presents critical issues requiring either the use of large battery sets or the back-up use of diesel generators.
Hydrogen is considered as the optimal carrier for the surplus energy storage from renewable resources. Although hydrogen and its application in fuel cell is considered as a high-cost energy system the Telecom application has the potential to be a cost-efficient solution for their use in stand-alone applications.
Finally, the number of demonstration of RBS powered using H2 & FC integrated with local RES has been limited so far and there is a lack of data to further rise the interest of potential users. Moreover, there is a lack of European activity in this field and this represents a limit to the diffusion of this technology.
Creating a new logical system for controlling different components and alternative energy sources to power supply the radio sites.
The definition of that solution moves through technical specifications development for each single technology, complete components integration and testing, equipments installation on real telecommunication sites, final solution test and results benchmarking.
The project has created an integrated approach to the design of high energy efficient Radio Base Stations and will test different state of the art FC solutions from European and World Manufacturers. Alternative fuelling solutions as hydrogen, methanol or natural gas will also be tested aiming to address the different range of application of each solution.
The project will work on the development of a benchmark protocol for the FC technology for the reference application field to be added in parallel to the available benchmark protocols. This procedure will be developed and implemented by independent parties (the R&D centre participating the project and the JRC which is a reference lab to this aim), providing further reliability and a point of reference for final users, who now know how their units perform in relation to the benchmark data. The project will also connect with parallel on-going FCH-JU project focusing on both Telecom applications and off-grid operations.
Expected socio and economic impact:
Demonstrate the availability of green alternative energy sources and renewable energy sources as sustainable environmental solution (i.e. CO2 equal to zero) in the telecommunication field, is the expected goal of the project. While the FCpoweredRBS solution could already improve the energy performance of RBS and reduce their carbon footprint, the proposed set-up also aims to demonstrate a significant advantage in terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). In fact, for specific applications the higher efficiency and the integrated use of local renewable energy sources should also lead to cost savings which could make this application interesting for immediate use. Furthermore, the project will show economical advantages of usage of green alternative energy and renewable energy solutions vs traditional one.
From an energy point of view this solution allows:
- an effective match with local Renewable Energy generation (mainly PV);
- a more efficient energy production with zero local emissions;
- a different match with batteries which could either increase their life or reduce their dimension;
Finally, with respect to this specific but already promising early market the project would allow the EU manufacturer to fill a competitive gap with respect to their USA competitors which are extremely active in this sector.