Ericsson and DT show how renewables can power 5G sites

  • May 31, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

A trial by Ericsson and Deutsche Telekom is showing how renewable energy can power 5G-enabled networks that could pave the way for advances in sustainable mobile site operations.

The joint initiative has transformed a live radio site using a management package to harness solar and wind energy efficiently while optimising power supply and demand.

A major goal of the partnership is to identify and validate energy efficiency and energy cost cutting based on optimised energy consumption and control and increased use of renewable energy sources.

The site in the Bavarian municipality of Dittenheim, about 120km north of Munich, has been part-powered by energy from solar panels since the initiative began more than a year ago. The site has 12m2 of solar modules. Now, Ericsson and DT experts have added a wind turbine, capable of providing up to 5kW of additional power, as a second renewable energy power source.

The resulting simultaneous integration of the two renewable energy sources – made possible by the Ericsson Power System energy manager – means the site can theoretically be operated on a stand-alone basis without using its cable connection to the electrical power grid. As long as weather conditions support the use of the renewable capabilities, this can make a major contribution to powering the site.

The Ericsson Power System provides the necessary voltage conversion and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). The joint control of the two power sources and the batteries are integrated into the same management system that controls the radio access network (RAN). This single management system will allow for quick and easy integration into existing sites in the future.

Batteries installed in current systems serve as storage in the event of a power outage. New Ericsson software and control mechanisms enable the management system to use the batteries as dynamic power storage units to make optimum use of the energy generated.

Initial tests showed that on windy days more renewable energy could be generated than was consumed by site operations. The control of the energy sources includes various functions for hazard prevention as well as automation. For example, in the event of a malfunction, the wind turbine can be automatically deactivated to prevent uncontrolled operation.

The next phase will see the development of additional functions for the efficient use of generated energy and storage capacities. In the near future, the integration of additional energy sources such as fuel cells will replace the need for diesel generators, which are currently kept in reserve for emergencies.

“Ensuring an integrated management of clean, efficient and reliable power sources and usage is key for sustainable mobile site operations,” said Leif Heitzer, senior vice president at Deutsche Telekom. “Together with innovative partners, we explore in trials how we can apply intelligence and capabilities to optimise energy consumption and control at mobile sites.”

Heather Johnson, vice president at Ericsson, added: “At Ericsson, we are committed to working with our customers to support them in cutting their carbon emissions. This partnership is a great example of how we’re achieving this through our best-in-class energy efficient equipment, which can be operated entirely with renewable energy.”