Ballard, Idea to pilot Fuel Cell technology

Canada-based clean energy fuel cell provider, Ballard Power Systems and Indian telecom operator, Idea Cellular have joined hands to pilot the renewable energy technology on methanol-fuelled systems to power telecom sites. As part of the agreement, Ballard Power Systems will supply ElectraGen ME fuel cell systems.

The fuel cell systems will be utilized in combination with solar technology to generate continuous power at five Idea Cellular’s wireless base station sites. The project has has been funded by United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for a feasibility study and for the pilot project.

This project will support Idea Cellular’s efforts to find clean energy solutions to replace the use of diesel generators in its network throughout India. The trial is scheduled to take place in early 2014 utilizing Ballard ElectraGen-ME 2.5 kilowatt methanol-based fuel cell systems, which will be deployed in combination with solar power technology the five Idea Cellular tower sites.

“Idea Cellular, an Aditya Birla Group Company, has been a pioneer in renewable energy technologies deployment to power telecom sites in India, for the past several years,” said Himanshu Kapania, Managing Director at Idea Cellular.He added, “The grant offered by USTDA will further spur our efforts towards reducing carbon emissions from telecom infrastructure in the country.”

Karim Kassam, Ballard’s Vice President of Business Development added, “We are certainly pleased to expand our relationship with Idea Cellular in India with this opportunity to showcase our methanol-fuelled systems in a continuous power application.”

Increasingly, telecom network operators in India are looking to fuel cell technology to meet government regulations concerning deployment of renewable energy systems. India’s Department of Telecommunications has mandated that at least 50% of all rural towers and 20% of urban towers be powered using clean energy systems by 2015. The regulation is targeted at reducing the country’s reliance on diesel generators, which currently power 60% of all wireless base station sites.

Telecom Backup Power solutions based on fuel cell technology deliver a number of advantages over conventional batteries and diesel generators. These include higher reliability across a wide range of operating conditions, lower maintenance costs, longer operating life as well as reduced size, weight, installation footprint, noise signature and environmental impact.

“Ballard’s ElectraGen-ME methanol-fuelled systems are particularly well suited for ‘extended runtime’ backup power needs. These systems are designed for high reliability, long life and minimal preventive maintenance. They include a fuel reformer that converts HydroPlus (a methanol-water liquid fuel mixture) into hydrogen gas to power the fuel cell,” claimed Ballard in a statement.

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