A quarter of Vodacom Lesotho’s cell phone network is now powered by ‘green’ base stations using energy saving technologies such as wind and solar power to help reduce carbon emissions. The base stations are powered independently of diesel generators or the national grid and are among the first of their kind worldwide.
Currently 40 out of a total 165 base station sites in Lesotho are powered through a combination of solar and wind. Vodacom Lesotho’s other environmentally conscious technologies include power system optimisation that ensures that in the event of power failure, a traditional site continues to operate for up to three hours on stored battery power before a diesel generator kicks in.
In addition, smart meters are used to monitor power consumption and remote control systems are used to operate base station sites remotely both reducing the need for physical site visits.
“Lesotho is a step ahead when it comes to converting its network to green technologies,” says Suraya Hamdulay, executive head of corporate citizenship at Vodacom.
Vodacom Lesotho said that it plans to build 80 new sites that use only renewable energy sources over the next four years. It will also refurbish existing operational sites to reduce its reliance on diesel generators. Smart meters have already been installed in two sites, one green site and the other running off the electricity grid, in a test to more accurately measure power consumed.
The physical geographical nature of Lesotho lends itself to supporting the latest sustainable base station technology based entirely on solar and wind power. Vodacom Lesotho is pioneering work in this area with the aim to provide mobile communications to previously unconnected communities in the most remote areas of the country. The programme to connect these communities to the mobile Internet has the potential to deliver substantial social and economic benefits.
“That is a wonderful advantage to have,” says Hamdulay. “The Lesotho business has managed to eliminate the need to purchase back-up generators for its base stations. As a result, Vodacom Lesotho is far less reliant on diesel and more predisposed to using clean energy to run its base stations.”
The stations do not require electricity or diesel resulting in reduced maintenance and monitoring thus vastly reducing ongoing operational costs.
“There is a strong business case for installing green base stations as they reduce on-going operating costs and these cost savings will ultimately benefit our customers,” says Hamdulay.