October 09, 2008, 10:27 AM — Ericsson has equipped its environmentally friendly radio base station site concept Tower Tube with built-in support for wind power, in a bid to help operators go green and expand mobile networks to where electricity isn't available, it announced on Thursday.
The Tower Tube design requires no feeders or cooling systems, which lowers power consumption by up to 40 percent compared to a traditional base station sites, according to Ericsson. It is also built using concrete instead of steel, which lowers emissions during the building process.
The wind-powered version, which is being developed by Ericsson in cooperation with Vertical Wind and Uppsala University in Sweden, comes with a four-blade turbine with five-meter blades, which are vertically attached to the tower.
"Normally we keep projects like this one under wraps. But that's difficult in this case, because if you go to Marsta in old Uppsala there is a tower there, and it can't be hidden," said Jeanette Fridberg, director of marketing for radio access networks at Ericsson.
It is still very much a research project. But the goal is to have a prototype ready during the next year for deployment elsewhere, in order to verify that it works how it's supposed to, according to Fridberg.
The advantage of integrating wind power into the base station tower is that it doesn't take up additional space; so you don't have to pay rent for more land, according to Fridberg.
Because the blades are attached vertically and turn around the tower, instead of around their own axis, the turbine is less noisy and has less visual impact than typical wind turbines, said Fridberg.
Compared to solar power, wind is less predictable, Ericsson said. Wind is more efficient, if you find a spot with enough speed and wind occurrence. But there is more data readily available when choosing solar sites, according to Ericsson.
To ensure continuous operation the plan is to include batteries that are charged when there is more wind than is needed power the base station, according to Fridberg.
The Tower Tube was introduced in September last year, and is moving forward step by step. "We have entered final discussions with several operators. When we released it last year it was a concept, to gauge interest. So right now we're also trying to figure out how to industrialize it in an effective manner," said Fridberg.