By CHIMA AKWAJA, Lagos
As Africa grapples with poor and unreliable electricity supply which has posed serious challenges to mobile operators looking to expand network coverage, Huawei Technologies said the solution is in the adoption of hybrid solar power.
The company believes this digital divide can be resolved with its Solar Hybrid Power Solution which is based on industry-leading SolarMax technology, and converts the abundant energy from the sun into DC output to supply stable electrical power for site equipment.
According to Mr. Frank Li, Managing Director Huawei Technologies Nigeria, speaking at the ongoing AfricaCom 2017 conference in Cape Town, South Africa said the solution features intelligent management features by analyzing data from the solar panels, battery and generator set, an algorithm is used to modify battery charging times and generator running time to maximise the benefits derived from solar radiation.
This, together with lithium instead of lead-acid batteries, has shown to improve the harvesting of solar energy by as much as 40 per cent, and to reduce fuel consumption costs by almost 70 per cent, as compared to other hybrid solar power systems. The benefits could grow wider in summer months, with the intelligent solution being able to take advantage of lengthier periods of sunshine.”
Mr. Li further explained that the Solar Hybrid Power Solution uses intelligent lithium batteries, called BoostLi, which includes several intelligent features like including central management tools that allow for remote checks on the system’s state of health, state of charge, and more. This feature alone helps operators cut down on hundreds of dollars required per site visit.
Another challenge facing network expansion is the issue of theft; with multiple channels available for the recycling of lead-acid batteries, some operators report that up to 20 per cent of batteries are stolen. With Intelligent Protection, BoostLi batteries that are disconnected from their central monitor can be ‘locked’ after a user-defined period, after which they will no longer supply power.
The batteries have surpassed the industry standard for parallel output power with 15kW against 5kW, and further help operators maximize existing infrastructure investments by allowing for the mixing of intelligent lithium with legacy lead-acid batteries.
Mr. Li gave examples stating that “Safaricom, one of East Africa’s major mobile network operators, was faced with high battery theft rates and fuel bills exceeding US$10 000 per site before turning to Huawei’s hybrid solar power solution. Since then battery theft has dropped to zero, while fuel consumption has been cut by 90 per cent.
“The solution also helped MTN reduce battery theft to zero and improve network reliability slightly. Tower operator ANTOSC (Angola Tower Sharing Company), which has deployed the hybrid solution in off-grid areas, has been able to save over $20 000 in fuel costs.”