Vodafone tests emission-free power at mobile site

  • August 31, 2022
  • William Payne

Vodafone has deployed an off-grid zero-emission power solution at a mobile telecom tower site in Europe. The six week trial tested the use of ammonia-based alkaline fuel cells to provide zero-emission power to mobile telecom infrastructure in remote locations. The solution can provide resilient 24/7 continuous power even in harsh weather conditions.

The site in Romania featured power technology from hydrogen and ammonia energy specialist GenCell Energy and photovoltaic plant specialist SIMTEL.

The GenCell FOX is a low-temperature alkaline fuel cell which generates power from liquid ammonia – with only water, nitrogen and heat as by–products.

The objective of the field test was to evaluate the ammonia-based power solution’s performance, resilience and cost-savings potential over a six-week timescale. Initial results from the test indicate that the system operated reliably, providing required power output through the entire test period. The system was operated autonomously and minimal intervention from GenCell personnel was required. Upon demonstration of the resilient and reliable performance of the solution, Vodafone will showcase it to different business units.

Liquid ammonia is less flammable than gasoline, propane, hydrogen or natural gas and emits a strong odor that makes leaks rapidly detectable. When handled properly, liquid ammonia has an excellent safety record. Composed of nitrogen and hydrogen, ammonia is carbon-free. There is broad availability of existing infrastructure as well as growing market demand and technological developments, making ammonia an increasingly cost-effective green energy vector.   

GenCell equipment incorporate built-in sensors that shut down fuel cell operation immediately on detection of any leaks. The GenCell FOX is an off-grid product that is designated for placement in remote locations distanced from urban areas and requires minimal on-site maintenance and service.

Rami Reshef, CEO GenCell, said: “GenCell is seeing a substantial uptake in interest in its solutions across the telecom sector, especially in Europe where regulations are tightening against carbon emissions. Alkaline fuel cell technology can help operators implement renewable power solutions directly at mobile sites, even when they are located in remote locations and the toughest climate conditions.”

Radu Villau, CTO & Co-Founder of Simtel, said: “We understand the tough power challenges facing our MNO customers. After testing the GenCell’s FOX for more than 1,200 hours continuously in different power loads at a live telecom site, we are confident that the GenCell FOX stand-alone power solution can offer a solution to these challenges, keeping remote mobile towers running continuously while complying with increasingly strict European regulations around the use of fossil fuels. Following this successful field test, we expect to explore more opportunities for deployment of joint projects together by Simtel and GenCell.