7 June 2012 – IHS Africa, a telecommunications infrastructure provider with headquarters in Nigeria and operations across sub-Saharan Africa, has opened the largest solar-powered cell site in Africa dedicated to the telecommunications industry.

Small, single operator solar sites are increasingly being deployed, given the absence of public power in many parts of Africa, but this is the first large multi-operator installation. The site is made up of solar panels covering 96 m2 and will produce a total capacity of 12 kilowatt peak (kWp). It will supply electricity to three mobile network operators, with further room for expansion.

William Saad, group chief technology officer, IHS, says, “Through ten years of field experience we have developed a range of techniques in diesel reduction and site-optimisation. We are also pleased to see operators increasingly adopting the use of small, single-operator solar powered cell sites, alongside much larger installations, such as ours, to meet their power demands and reduce costs.

“Furthermore, this cell site forms part of our investment programme to reduce diesel consumption by an average of 40 to 50 per cent over the next two years for our 4,000 generator powered cellular communications towers in west Africa.”

Rural communities offer a new potential source of revenue for mobile operators, as they continue to expand the rollout of mobile data services. Site access is often difficult in rural areas and connection to an electricity grid is seldom possible or prohibitive in price, so a stand-alone power system is often required. As the importance of wireless technologies grows, more towers will be needed, placing greater demand on solar power.

IHS currently has 4,000 towers under management, owns 900 towers for collocation with each tower having guaranteed 99.9% uptime for electricity.