Biofuels to Power Cell Phone Base Stations in Africa

Experiments with renewable energy seem to be popping up all over the African continent, and cellular phone service companies Ericsson (Swedish) and MTN (South Africa) plan to join this movement by using biofuels to power mobile base stations not connected to the electrical grid. The companies will receive support from GSM Association's development fund, and hope this project both places Africa "...at the forefront of a new wave of innovation," and pushes the cell phone industry towards integrating renewables into "...the core of its operations":

"We're planning to replicate this in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. India and Bangladesh have also expressed interest," said Ben Soppitt, program manager emerging markets at the GSM Association (GSMA).

Starting in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, fuel will be processed from palm, groundnut, pumpkin seeds and jatropha.

The crops to generate the biofuel will be cultivated close to the base stations, helping local farmers, cutting dependency on fossil fuels and reducing fuel transportation needs. The cost of fuel, including security to protect transport and storage, can be 80 percent of the cost of a rural phone network.

Additionally, Ericsson plans to monitor the cultivation of the fuel crops in order to ensure that they are grown sustainably, without genetic modification or clear-cutting of forest land. The company is also investigating the use of solar and wind power for even more remote base stations. Reliable communications infrastructures will be key to Africa's development efforts; using renewables not only makes sense for their light environmental footprint, but also because cellular stations will go up more quickly without having to wait for the grid to move into the more isolated reaches of the continent. ::Yahoo! News via Greenthinkers