Germany provides funding for pilot solar-powered telecoms project

Out-Law News | 22 Jul 2014 | 5:08 pm | 1 min. read

Dutch-based Photon Energy has won funding from the German government for a pilot project to demonstrate how solar energy can be used to power communications infrastructure in remote locations.

Photon said the funding is for the design, installation and operation of a photovoltaic (PV) system for a broadcast antenna in Australia, which is operated by international communications infrastructure provider BAI.

Photon said that once successfully tested the concept could be implemented on thousands of sites across Australia and promote investment in solar projects in other remote areas.

Photon will install the solar PV system to replace the existing power supply used by the BAI-run antenna near Muswellbrook in the state of New South Wales. The technology involved, which includes 96 solar panels, is mostly manufactured in Germany.

Photon said the BAI telecom tower will be powered by a 39 kilowatts peak (kWp) solar power installation using 215 kilowatt hours of batteries and an 8 kilo volt amp diesel back-up system. Solar electricity systems are rated in terms of kWp, which is essentially the rate at which the system generates energy at peak performance.

BAI group chief executive officer Jim Hassell said: “As a service provider that relies heavily on external market forces, it’s exciting to think that soon we’ll be able to generate much of our own power. The longer-term outcome of this project will prove beneficial for our customers in many ways, as we’ll be able to provide them with a lower carbon footprint, more cost certainty and improved reliability against the grid in remote locations.”

Hassell said: “We’re looking forward to assessing the outcomes of this project for a potential future network-wide implementation.”

BAI owns and operates one of the most extensive terrestrial broadcast transmission networks in the world. In Australia the company provides fully managed transmission services, site sharing, co-hosting, online application hosting and infrastructure services to the telecommunications, emergency services and broadcasting industries. The group also owns businesses in Hong Kong, Canada and the US that specialise in the design, installation and operation of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage in mass transit subways.  

The Photon project is part of an international ‘renewable energy solutions programme’ coordinated by the German Energy Agency (dena) and co-financed by Germany’s federal ministry for economic affairs and energy. Details of financing for the project were not released.

Shareholders in dena, which was established in 2000, are the German government, KfW Bankengruppe, Allianz SE, Deutsche Bank AG and DZ Bank AG. In 2012 the agency’s total revenue was nearly €19 million. The agency’s activities include promoting renewable energy solutions internationally and the use of German technologies and expertise.

Photon has already installed several rooftop power plants in Australia and said it has recently proposed a “standardised financing option” aimed at attracting more businesses to the commercial solar PV market.