The mobile industry in the U.S. has been a bit slow to embrace renewable energy at cellular sites. But today, Ericsson said it has set up a 5G site in Plano, Texas, which is powered by solar energy and complemented by integrated lithium-ion batteries.
The site includes an Ericsson mid-band Massive MIMO radio configuration, a RAN processor, solar panels and lithium-ion batteries, along with a controller for hybrid energy operation and control.
The solar energy provides the 5G site’s power, and the batteries store energy for back-up and resiliency for up to 24 hours.
Ericsson particularly wants to use this proof-of-concept to demonstrate its energy management software. The site uses energy management capabilities such as load shifting, peak shaving, and demand response. These techniques enable the site to use batteries when electricity rates are high and recharge the batteries when electricity rates are lower, optimizing energy costs.
The vendor said traditional off-grid sites typically use diesel fuel generators for power. Renewable energy offers a more sustainable alternative, helping operators reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, operators could potentially sell back excess energy from their renewables to utility companies, thereby finding a new revenue stream.
“We’re thrilled to announce this smart-sustainable 5G site, which serves as a tangible proof point of Ericsson’s leading position in building sustainable mobile networks,” stated Kevin Zvokel, SVP and head of networks for Ericsson North America.
Ed Gubbins, principal analyst at Global Data, stated, “Ericsson’s smart site solutions for hybrid energy sources are designed to help operators control costs and increase profitability – especially in rural or remote areas or private networks, where traffic volumes are lower and power consumption needs to be especially efficient.”
Ericsson is already planning a Phase Two of its project, which will explore additional green energy sources such as hydrogen-based generators. And the vendor also plans to reach out to utility companies to sell energy back to the grid with net metering.
In the Phase Two, it will also display sophisticated Ericsson software features such as its Policy-based Battery Saver, where operators can switch off specified radio frequencies to reduce energy consumption.
Ericsson’s new renewable energy system for 5G sites may compete against vendors such as Galooli, which has served tower, telco and energy companies all over the world for 15 years and which began marketing in the U.S. in 2022.
Ronan Barel, CEO and co-founder of Galooli, said one of the company’s biggest customers, globally, is American Tower, which it works with in six countries.
Barel said a new trend is to create on-site, independent pico grids, which includes batteries, generators and solar power.