ALTA Energy, A Promising Start

Bengaluru-based Alta Energy started operations in 2010 and has successfully showcased its technology for a telecom tower owned by Viom Networks, a joint venture between Tata Teleservices Limited and Quippo, a SREI Group enterprise.

While the pressure on telecom companies for powering towers using clean energy has led to the emergence of several renewable energy distribution models, the development of appropriate technologies for powering tower sites is crucial. Most often these sites are not suitable for the deployment of renewable energy generation technologies, particularly for solar.

In this backdrop, and with the aim of reducing the dependence of telecom towers on diesel generators (DGs), Alta Energy has come up with a unique hybrid technology, an "All DC Solar" power system, customised specifically for use in India.

The technology effectively utilises solar energy, simultaneously supplying uninterrupted electricity to the telecom tower. Bengaluru-based Alta Energy started operations in 2010 and has successfully showcased its technology for a telecom tower owned by Viom Networks, a joint venture between Tata Teleservices Limited and Quippo, a SREI Group enterprise. "The technology has been running successfully at the site for the past six months," says Abdul Manaf, managing director, Alta Energy.

The tower, located in Kolar, Karnataka, has a
one-base transceiver system and was earlier dependent upon interrupted grid electricity and batteries that were charged either by a DG set or the grid. The project was powered by a 15 kW DG grid system with a per day grid supply of nine hours at Rs 7 per kWh, a DG run-time of 12 hours and a battery run-time of three
hours. Following the implementation of the solar power system, that costs around Rs 1.51 million for 1 kW load, the per day average supply from solar panels is six hours whereas supply from the grid and the battery is nine hours each.

The technology deployed by Alta Energy mainly comprises a static power conditioning unit for regulating voltage fluctuations and an intelligent central controller that prioritises individual power supply resources. Thus, solar power is given preference even if grid power is available. However, in the case of insufficient solar radiation, the system automatically switches over to grid or battery power. The technology makes use of the company's patented Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) solar modules with complex embedded systems.
These MPPT control units allow a 30 per cent increase in power generation from a photovoltaic array as compared to conventional controllers. The company provides a warranty of five years for its systems, inclusive of the batteries. In addition,
these systems have features similar to a remote monitoring system that helps in detecting battery usage, temperature, etc.

Each system consists of a battery bank with a standby time of 30 hours. These are domestically manufactured hybrid batteries that are temperature tolerant.

Given the limitations associated with an existing telecom tower site such as space, orientation and suitability, the company intends to focus more on new sites where it can incorporate its system requirements at the design stage itself.

So far, Alta Energy has deployed its technology at a single site in India. However, its technology is powering over 9,000 telecom tower sites in China. The company is currently working on a project in Sri Lanka for Dialog Axiata Plc. Alta Energy has reportedly been approached by Larsen & Tubro Limited, OMC Power and various renewable energy service companies for its technology.

In light of the fact that the system helped Viom Networks reduce the operating expense of its tower to around Rs 3,000 per month, it makes strong business sense to use such systems. Besides, it has reduced CO2 emissions from the tower by 21 tonnes per year.

Thus, using such technologies can help telecom
tower companies achieve operational savings of over 90 per cent. Moreover, in this way, companies can fulfil their obligation of sourcing a part of their energy requirement from renewable energy sources, as mandated by the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India.

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