Fuel Cells Dialing Up Overseas

Many fuel cell manufacturers are expanding their sales and orders in international markets to provide clean, reliable power to telecommunications networks and towers.

(Washington, DCJanuary 28, 2014) Following the lead of major telecommunications companies in the U.S., there has been a recent surge in orders, sales and deployments of fuel cells in international markets -- in Latin America, the Caribbean, Indonesia, India, the Middle East, Africa, Japan and China. There has also been an increase in the number of fuel cell manufacturers and integrators introducing products and entering partnerships with telecommunications companies overseas.

Fuel cells are used to provide long-running, primary or backup power for telecom switch nodes and cellular towers because they last a lot longer than their battery counterparts – ten years compared to three to five years – and weigh a lot less, offering much more flexible citing: inside, outside, and even on rooftops. Fuel cells are rugged and durable, able to provide power to remote sites that may be subject to inclement weather, and have proven themselves through tough storms such as Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. In the U.S., telecom companies have collectively installed or ordered more than 1,000 fuel cells at cellular towers and network switching sites across the country.

Fuel cells are also virtually silent, in contrast to the loud and smoky diesel gensets often used at remote, rural sites. Customers in areas without a source of hydrogen fuel can opt for systems that operate using methanol and even propane. Other installations integrate solar and/or wind-power as a source for hydrogen via electrolysis. This fuel flexibility is helping expand the reach into international telecom markets.

Intelligent Energy has signed an $82 million, multi-year agreement with and Ascend Telecom to provide fuel cell power for telecom towers across India.
Heliocentris has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to supply its fuel cells to one of the world's largest mobile network operators from the Middle East to upgrade its network, beginning with 240 sites.
Ballard Power will supply its ElectraGen™-ME, methanol-fueled fuel cell systems to integrate with solar for a pilot project for India's Idea Cellular at five of its wireless base station sites. Last July, Ballard signed an Equipment Supply Agreement with Azure Hydrogen, for 120 direct hydrogen ElectraGen™-H2 systems and 100 ElectraGen™-ME systems to be deployed in China's telecommunications network. Ballard also has deployed more than 270 of its ElectraGen™-ME methanol-fueled fuel cell backup power systems in 16 Caribbean and Latin American (CALA) telecom networks, including Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, St Lucia, Montserrat and Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Chile, Guatemala and Argentina.
Australian telecom operator Telstra has announced that it will deploy fuel cells as an alternative to back-up battery arrays at mobile base stations and small telephone exchanges that consume less than 5 kW/hour. After 12 months of testing fuel cells at several base stations, Telstra reported that the Ballard fuel cell used as an alternative to a back-up battery array at a Tasmanian mobile base station provided seamless backup power after a lightning strike took out its AC rectifier. The fuel cell continued running for over two days, more than six times longer than a battery-based back-up system.
Acta S.p.A. received its first repeat order for the sale of its back-up power system that will be installed in Africa at a base station of a major international mobile telecom company, following their initial order announced in May 2013. Acta signed contracts with two major mobile telecommunications companies for trials of its fuel cell back-up power system at two telecom base stations in the Philippines. The company also signed a distribution partnership with Shanghai Sunwise Energy Systems Co. Ltd for the distribution of electrolyzers and back-up power systems in China.

Recently, in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $250,000 to Sprint to deploy fuel cell-powered backup power systems for rooftop telecommunications equipment. Sprint has hundreds of fuel cells installed around the country.

Verizon has also announced plans to invest $100 million in solar power and fuel cells at 19 facilities in seven U.S. states to reduce emissions and make operations more resilient to storms and power outages. The company will install more than 8 MW of ClearEdge Power stationary fuel cell systems at corporate offices, call centers, and data centers and 1 MW of Bloom Energy fuel cells at three sites in California.

Fuel Cells 2000 tracks more than 16 different fuel cell companies operating in the telecom backup power market. For more information about any of these news items, or about fuel cells in general, including recent developments and industry news, please contact Fuel Cells 2000. We are happy to provide industry contacts, images or quotes for stories.

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