A sadhu on mobile!

A sadhu on mobile!

We live in exponential times and what animates it is information and communication. Today economy runs not on money but on bits and bytes gushing through the internet backbone. Not long back cellphones were a rare thing. The ability to communicate from anywhere, anytime was reserved for the super rich. But then something changed. Government became liberalized, companies realized the immense potential of Indian market and so started the mobile revolution. With a whooping 584 million mobile phone connections as of March 2010 and an estimated 1.159 billion connections by the end of 2013, Indian telecommunication industry is the fastest growing in the world. Today in the cities of India almost everyone carries a mobile be it the laundry guy, house maid or the vegetable vendor on thela. To realize a truly powerful India communication must penetrate to the deepest corner. In doing so there are many techno-commercial complications. What constricts the proliferation of mobiles to remote places is power. A huge percentage of villages have no electricity and those which have are plagued with frequent and long power outages. Current generation base stations rely on diesel generators for uninterrupted power. Generators are not only expensive to run and costly to maintain but also have very bad effect on the environment. One of the operators with whom I am working is second largest consumer of diesel after Indian Railways! It is not that difficult to imagine the scale at which using diesel generators will affect the environment.

Fortunately solar power is available in almost every location no matter how remote. By utilizing solar power to run the base stations not only allow operators to reduce their operation costs to a bare minimum but also allow deeper penetration of mobile networks. Solar powered base station is a new concept in India. There is not much of technical knowhow present to execute such a system nor is there enough awareness amongst the cellular operators. As with any solar installation the huge initial investment involved scare away customers. The Jawahar Lal Nehru National Solar Mission comes to rescue here.

Extremely jubilant Piyush Shroff, after successful demonstration of Solar Connect

With right subsidy the government is encouraging cellular operators to venture into solar and try it as an alternative. Being a part of large solar photo-voltaic company I was integral in the development of a solution that is viable both technically and economically. After months of trials and experimentations which involved late night visits to remote site (any disruption is allowed only at midnight!) and working in the super hot sun for hours we finally demonstrated a fully working solution – Solar Connect™ .

Solar Connect™ is not just a solar plant it is a complete energy management solution. It includes advanced energy management between solar power, batteries, diesel and grid. A typical outdoor tower with two base stations and a 2 ton AC can consume somewhere around 100 units of energy every day and for a location with 10-12 hours of power cut (which is very common) the operational (energy) cost can be around 36000 rupees every month! With a 10KWp Solar Connect™ Solution an operator can offset 45-50% of energy requirement from solar and as much as 100% of generator dependency. The savings can be in the tune of 25000 rupees. With the savings the return of investment can happen within 3-4 years. Add to it a 25 years warranty and the whole investments starts making sense. The potential of the market is huge. We are targeting around 1000 base stations for next quarter and the figure is bound to increase many folds. New generation base stations are becoming ever more efficient coupled with solar power soon every Indian will be “connected”, connected to the progress of the nation and connected to a brighter future.  Solar power is going to change the face of communication in India. The idea of 1.3 billion people being able to communicate with each other and the world is hair raising. Solar will soon make it possible…

PS: For all those tech savvy guys there is a technical whitepaper available based on the pilot implementation of Solar Connect™.

The pilot site - in the outskirts of Hyderabad

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