By Morten Thomsen, Senior Sales Manager and Esben Overgaard Hansen, Business Development Manager, Advent Technologies A/S.

A massive increase in the amount of data traffic over mobile wireless communication has been observed in recent years, while further rapid growth is expected in the years ahead. With the transition from 4G to 5G technology, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are faced with multiple challenges in supplying reliable and clean energy to an increasing number of end-users.

Thus, a sustainable power system must be able to provide more than just clean energy. It must be smart too. A smart energy system has the flexibility to support different energy strategies and the ability to supplement or absorb irregularities of the system. The ability to stabilize power on demand has probably never been more critical in times where it has become increasingly difficult to predict the needs and behavior of the mobile network. Put differently, when looking for power options, one must consider a solution for handling the 4G network, 5G transition and beyond.

Telco Operators are challenged with:

Enormous energy consumption is considered as one of the major deployment hurdles of the 5G system. The increased power demands of a 5G, among others, means insufficient battery capacity, leading to possible power gaps and instability of the power system. Yet, traditional lead-acid batteries have low energy density, and their capacities are difficult to expand. Fuel cell systems offer a cost-effective extension of runtime. It is simply a matter of adding more fuel tanks, larger fuel tanks. This results in significantly low priced energy (kWh) verses investing in more battery banks. In addition, they allow for a flexible start up option complemented with supplementary capacity to absorb the imbalance of power and backup to meet the increased probability of power outage.

The complexity increases with the fact that many sites need to handle a dual transition with parallel use of 4G and 5G. As high energy battery range extender, Advent’s Serene Fuel Cell Systems adapts to work with different battery types and configurable charge strategies. The Advent system allows power generation to be easily increased from 5 kW to 10 kW or to 15 kW in accordance with deployment and scaling needs.

Today, electricity generation is still mainly based on fossil fuel – for example, about 65% electricity production of China and 80% of India and Pakistan is based on fossil fuel, which imposes an urgent challenge to the climate. The large-scale deployment of 5G may lead to rapidly increasing demand for energy and may thus contribute to the energy crisis that is driving the global climate change. Today, the energy consumption of the Information and Telecommunication Technology (ICT) generates around 3.6 % of the total GHGE, and, at the same pace, might generate 14% emission by 2040, which is about 4.7% of global electricity production. *
The integration of clean and renewable energies is becoming increasingly key to address the urgent energy consumption challenge and allow for 5G networks to be self-sustainable. As a result, mobile network operators should develop short- and long-term strategies to reduce energy bills by adopting energy-saving approaches. The Advent Serene Fuel Cell System generates clean power as a standalone hybrid solution connected to the grid or as part of a hybrid solution with solar panels and/or wind turbines. As a result, on one hand, the Advent Serene Fuel Cell System safeguards that base stations, which are supported by renewable energy sources, stay green and self-sustainable. On the other hand, it reduces CO2 emissions and dependency on grid.

*In their recent article “Renewable energy powered sustainable 5G network infrastructure: Opportunities, challenges and perspectives”, Adil Israr, Qiang Yang, Wei Li and Albert Y. Zomaya elaborate on how to ensure Quality of Service (QoS) to end-users with five times the traffic in the dual operations of the 4G and 5G network and associated infrastructure.

Many operators also face the obligations of providing rural coverage in off-grid or instable grid areas, where weather conditions are harsh and accessibility is challenging. Some demands are further increased by adding new end-users within critical infrastructure and healthcare, pushing demands for reliable power supply and readiness independent power generation over longer time periods. Moreover, environmental regulations often restrict the use of fossil fuel and prohibit noise. Some would even demand close to zero emission energy supply.

Besides not depending on the usage of conventional grid energy, a fuel cell system decreases carbon emissions. Therefore, a fuel cell system is among the best viable solutions for power supply to the wireless mobile systems in places without power grid infrastructure, e.g., very remote areas, offshore islands. Independent of wind and sun, at such instance, powering a mobile network with the Advent Serene Fuel Cell System is cost-effective, and offers a long-term environmental solution for the mobile networks industry. The fuel cell system is easy to install and enable for operations with its internal 200 l. fuel tank. Identical to changing needs in power consumption, different run-time demands can be met by adding one or more 1000 l. external fuel tanks. A robust design, remote monitoring, and self-maintenance safeguards the system’s stability and fuel quality. In short, the cabinet is the best versatile system design in its class – providing a long-term solution for flexible power and run-time needs.

The Advent Serene Fuel Cell System can also provide back-up and supplementary power-on-demand for temporary power needs. This is needed during periods of the maximum load conditions in which the numbers of Base Stations used in a certain area have demand to be capable of providing mobile users with the required Quality of Service (QoS). The unpredictable nature of managing heterogenous networks consisting of base stations and different types of small cells also impacts the network’s load conditions. This in turn leads to unpredictable situations, where peak periods could either result in excessive energy consumption or compromise QoS, or even lead to power outages. To this end, flexible power generation will be more reliable and energy efficient, with a fuel cell system safeguarding and sustaining the balance of the power system.

Why Advent is committed to generating methanol based sustainable energy

The Advent Serene Fuel Cell System is an environmentally friendly and sustainable energy storage and power generation supply. As operators are setting carbon reduction targets, Advent is offering a CO2 emission reducing solution that also solves other challenges as well.

For example, Advent Serene Fuel Cell Sytems emit less noise and do not vibrate, which translates to lighter footprints in local environments. They are strongly climate resilient and can be remotely monitored, which is critical to secure uptim and the stability of operations. Besides, fuel cells are not subject to vandalism nor fuel and equipment theft to the same extent as diesels gensets.

Methanol fuel cells offer a cheap fuel source and represent a technology placing operators in a favorable position as they prepare for green transitions. Methanol fuel cells run on a blend of water and methanol which is easily accessible in most parts of the world at low rates. Green sources of methanol are rapidly emerging world-wide also.