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Solar cells for Africa

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IHS Africa has successfully opened the largest solar-powered cell site in Africa dedicated to the telecommunications industry.

Small, single operator solar sites are increasingly being deployed, given the absence of public power in many parts of Africa, but this is the first large multi-operator installation.

The site is made up of solar panels covering an area of 96 m2 and will produce a total capacity of 12 kilowatt peak (kWp) and will supply electricity to three mobile network operators, with further room for expansion.

William Saad, Group Chief Technology Officer, IHS, said: ‚We are proud to be one of the first tower infrastructure companies to deploy solar technology in Africa. Through ten years of field experience we have developed a broad range of techniques in diesel reduction and site-optimisation. We are also pleased to see operators increasingly adopting the use of small, single-operator solar powered cell sites, alongside much larger installations, such as ours, to meet their power demands and reduce costs. African countries provide reliable levels of intense sunlight and operators everywhere have similar needs to reduce OPEX, improve uptime and be socially and environmentally sustainable.‚

‚Furthermore, this cell site forms part of our investment programme to reduce diesel consumption by an average of 40 to 50 per cent over the next two years for our 4,000 generator powered cellular communications towers in West Africa.‚

Rural communities offer a new potential source of revenue for mobile operators, as they continue to expand the roll out of mobile data services. Site access is often difficult in rural areas and connection to an electricity grid is seldom possible or prohibitive in price, so a stand-alone power system is often required. As the importance of wireless technologies grows, more towers will be needed, placing greater demand on solar power.

Mr Saad adds: ‚We are committed to reducing carbon emissions and continue to invest in R&D, aided by a grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), to assess alternative energy solutions aimed at reducing use of diesel generators.‚

IHS currently has 4000 towers under management, owns 900 towers for collocation with each tower having guaranteed 99.9% uptime for electricity.

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