PV Solar Power for Telecom BTS in India – Indian Telecom Industry Growth Story


Tarun Munjal


October 4, 2010


9:54 am

by Tarun Munjal, Director meeco India

India has emerged as the fastest growing telecom market in the world. The successful growth of the industry has been a catalyst for Indias growth in other sectors. Telecom operators are reporting approximately 15 million subscribers additional subsribers every month, resulting in a teledensity over 43%, with urban areas approaching 100%. The focus now is increasing penetration in rural areas to drive the next phase of growth. All stakeholders including the government, regulators, and private players are making significant initiatives to promote rural penetration.

Tower and BTS Infrastructure

Underlying the growth of these subsicribers is the countrys Telecom Tower and Base Transreceiver System (BTS) infrastructure. India has more than 250,000 telecom towers, a poulation growing rapidly to keep up subscribers growth and rural expansion. The BTS and tower infrastructure has gone through a transition – from operator-owned to spun off, independent companies using tower-sharing models (with both passive and active tower sharing) in an effort to reduce costs in this highly competitive market.

The Power Problem

A quick analysis of telecom network operating costs indicates power and fuel are the primary operating costs, comprising over 30% of total operating cost. This dynamic exists because grid power (Electricity Board or EB power) is highly unreliable and, in a lot of cases, not available in rural areas. BTS sites require constant and uninterrupted power for the safe operation of the network. As a result, BTS sites have utilized onsite diesel generators to either provide backup or primary power in the absence of EB power. Uninterrupted operation is achieved through a battery bank. The typical configuration of DG sets are 15-20KVA with a fuel burn rate of 2-3 litres per hour (depending on full or half load operations). Assuming seven hours of DG operations in urban areas and 20 hours in rural areas, estimated usage of diesel fuel is 2-4 billion litres per year across the 250,000+ towers in India. Fuel demand is increasing with each new tower.

India, with its excellent irradiance, has the opportunity to exploit Photovoltaic (PV) solar power to meet this challenge of onsite power generation. Coupled with a battery backup, PV systems are a viable and exciting alternative to reduce the correlation between power cost and total operating expenditure (OPEX), thereby providing a sustainable and reliable strategic solution to the fuel problem.

Government Policies

The Indian governments new policy direction provides incentives to use renewable energy, while at the same time decreasing subsidies on petroleum fuels and a move towards market pricing. The Ministry of Renewable Energy has issued Guidelines for Off-Grid and Decentralized Solar Applications under the Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission. This provides capital subsidy of up to 30% of capital cost for such projects implemented in the current fiscal year, to a maximum subsidy of INR 90 per watt peak (EUR 1.5) for systems using battery backup and INR 70 per watt peak (EUR 1.1) for systems without battery backup. Alternatively, there is an offer of soft loans at 5% interest rate subsidized by IREDA for these projects. There are other benefits such as accelerated depreciation on the balance of the project in the first year.

A typical BTS site converted from DG to a solar, using a meeco standard 4 KWp sun2com installation, would yield savings in excess of INR 45 Lakhs (EUR 75,000) over a period of 10 years , with a breakeven of 3-4 years.

sun2com by The meeco Group

The meeco Groups sun2com solution is based on a high availability Swiss/German design. Built using best in class components, sun2com projects are highly bankable and generate a lower total cost of ownership than DG sites. The key benefit of meeos sun2com technology is providing much needed step-reductions in operating cost. Highly customizable, sun2com can meet the requirements of both low and high consumption BTS sites.100924-Whitepaper BTS India-TM-EN-final

Please find more information in the attached white paper. 100924-Whitepaper BTS India-TM-EN-final