Silicon Valley, California, Mar 23 2021/Meeting Recap/ The world is undergoing an energy revolution, and Telecom is no exception. Many types of renewable energy are approaching price-parity with the legacy carbon-based alternatives. And sustainable initiatives, regulations, and incentives are helping flip the page towards a more renewable future. For telecom, these changes don't have to mean higher costs. On the contrary, the disruptive decade of change actually opens up opportunities to increase predictability of cost and supply, reduce average prices paid per KWh, and to provide more reliable uptime and backup solutions.
How do telecom operators adapt and embrace the new environment? Between 5 and 7 percent of network operators' operating expenses go towards energy costs, and on the flipside, telecoms represents 2 and 3 percent of Energy Opertors' revenues. There is a lot of money changing hands, and a savings here will impact the bottom line. Some of the ideas discussed at our meeting involved:
- Reducing Consumption: Carriers can adopt newer hardware that uses less energy. This can be achieved with more efficient equipment, in particular RF power amplifiers, and also by using AI to selectively power down excess capacity and alter duty cycles based on real-time demand from end-users.
- Storage: Changes in on-site storage from lead-acid to Li-ion batteries or some other technology will allow operators to store additional capacity with lower maintenance in the same physical space. This could be used to reduce pack size, to have more disaster power, or to do price arbitrage/demand smoothing.
- Demand smoothing: Carriers can use local energy storage (previously installed only for backup) to reduce power demand from the grid during peak pricing hours. By using some local storage for price arbitrage, carriers can buy cheaper night-time electricity to charge cells, and discharge during peak price hours.
- Renewable Generation: Network operators can choose to consume more renewable energy, or to generate some power on-site with solar or other. But on-site generation is often space-limited. However, most grid operators allow a choice among energy sources. For operators required to lower carbon output, choosing to buy renewable energy is likely cheaper and simpler than buying carbon offsets.
- Sleeving: Much like a VPN in the communications world, network operators can "place shift" electricity generation for their cell sites, COs, or datacenters. For example, operators can build, or partner with a solar farm, drop the energy into the grid there, then pull it out at their facilities located many miles away. A fee is paid to the grid for transport. This is called "sleeving" and is a lot like the "tunnel" of VPN. Sleeving overcomes the space constraints of cell sites. As an example, TELUS partnered with a solar farm to acquire a flow of renewable energy for their facilities, located where cloud cover is rare & land is plentiful.
- Backup Power: Legacy diesel generators are dirty, space inefficient, and require frequent maintenance. But solar, wind, & batteries cannot match their power output. Yet other technologies like fuel cell + batteries could replace diesel, reduce maintenance costs, and run longer without a refueling.
Other than the above, our meeting also discussed how wireless power transmission can solve the power needs of the proliferation of IoT devices, and create a far more flexible building. We discussed AI for optimizing power use, more efficient passive cooling, EDGE solutions for power with recent challenges in network densification and 5G, Energy as a Service, and more.
Be sure to visit our Members' Library to view the Rapid Fire innovator presentations.