Ballard Power Systems will be supplying ElectraGen™-ME fuel cell systems for a pilot project in Idea Cellular's India telecom network. The fuel cell systems will be utilized in combination with solar technology to generate continuous power at five wireless base station sites. Funding for a feasibility study as well as the pilot project has been made available through a grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).
This project will support Idea Cellular's efforts to find clean energy solutions to replace the use of diesel generators in its network throughout India. The trial is scheduled to take place in early 2014 utilizing Ballard ElectraGen™-ME 2.5 kilowatt methanol-based fuel cell systems, which will be deployed in combination with solar power technology the five Idea Cellular tower sites.
"Idea Cellular, an Aditya Birla Group Company, has been a pioneer in renewable energy technologies deployment to power telecom sites in India, for the past several years," said Mr. Himanshu Kapania, Managing Director at Idea Cellular. "The grant offered by USTDA will further spur our efforts towards reducing carbon emissions from telecom infrastructure in the country."
Karim Kassam, Ballard's Vice President of Business Development added, "We are certainly pleased to expand our relationship with Idea Cellular in India with this opportunity to showcase our methanol-fuelled systems in a continuous power application."
Idea Cellular is India's third-largest mobile services operator, with 128 million subscribers, and has been powering telecom base stations in the region of Nadga, Madhya Pradesh with Ballard's ElectraGen™-H2 direct hydrogen systems since early 2012. These systems utilize by-product hydrogen from a nearby chemical product plant as a low-cost fuel source.
Increasingly, telecom network operators in India are looking to fuel cell technology to meet government regulations concerning deployment of renewable energy systems. India's Department of Telecommunications has mandated that at least 50% of all rural towers and 20% of urban towers be powered using clean energy systems by 2015. The regulation is targeted at reducing the country's reliance on diesel generators, which currently power 60% of all wireless base station sites.
Telecom 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.
Ballard's ElectraGen™-ME methanol-fuelled systems are particularly well suited for 'extended runtime' backup power needs. These systems are designed for high reliability, long life and minimal preventive maintenance. They include a fuel reformer that converts HydroPlus™ (a methanol-water liquid fuel mixture) into hydrogen gas to power the fuel cell.
The pilot project is subject to completion of final documents, currently in discussion between the parties. The USTDA press release announcement is available here - http://www.ustda.gov/news/pressreleases/2013/SouthAsia/India/IndiaCleanEnergyTelecomTowers_120213.asp.