T-Mobile USA Builds Its First Cell Tower Powered by Solar Energy

t-mobile solar cell tower photo

Image via GigaOM, courtesy of T-Mobile

While Motorola and Sony Ericsson have been on the trail of solar and wind-powered cell phone towers for years primarily in developing areas like Africa and India, T-Mobile seems to just be bringing the idea to the states. T-Mobile USA launched their first tower powered (at least in part) by the sun's rays in Chalfont, Pennsylvania. The 12 panels are enough to take the tower off grid, and even occasionally add power back onto the electric grid. GigaOM reports that the company can use this new site for lowering its carbon footprint and energy bill (even though it will be by a minuscule amount).

But it can also use the tower for green cred in a growing market of base stations powered by alternative energy. Back in July we reported on new data from Pike Research showing that clean energy will power 4.5% of base stations by 2014, up from the mere 0.11% in 2010 -- and that will also represent a boost to 8% of base stations in developing countries.

Using alternative energy for base stations makes a lot of sense -- it can mean power in areas that otherwise don't have an electric grid, and also power when there are grid failures. That means cell phone networks keep running even when energy supplies are on the fritz. Companies are taking advantage of the idea. Earlier in the year, a cell phone base station that uses as little as 50 watts of solar generated power was developed by VNL, a telecom company based in Haryana, India. The base stations - which can range from requiring 50 to 150 watts of power - are easy to assemble, requiring only two people to assemble and mount on a rooftop in just six hours.

However, the off-grid base stations can cost as much as three times more than traditional sites, reports GigaOM, which also notes that base stations actually comprise as much as 80% of the over all energy consumption from cellular networks. So it as much about companies focusing on reducing the energy required by the sites as it is about switching them over to renewable energy.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Alternative Power for Cell Phone Networks
Cell Phones to Get Clean Energy Boost, Increasing by 41x
An Energy-Sipping Cellular Network To Be Deployed in Africa
Ericsson Crosses Mobile Phone Tower With Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Related Content on Treehugger.com