Could this be the solution to mobile communications coverage in rural areas? Deutsche Telekom has started a project in the Bavarian town of Dettelbach that might be the first of its kind worldwide: a mobile base station there is being powered by a fuel cell that is fed with bio-methanol – producing a zero carbon footprint.
Powering mobile base stations is often a problem, particularly in rural areas. Wherever permanent power supplies are unavailable, diesel generators are used. In the Bavarian town of Dettelbach, the electricity is now coming from a fuel cell for the first time, and one that is climate-neutral to boot. The fuel cell also has another advantage compared to a combustion engine: higher efficiency. The solution is also low-maintenance and does not produce any noise or vibrations.
In a fuel cell, hydrogen reacts with the oxygen in the surrounding air. This generates electricity with only water and heat as the exhaust products. At first, a reformer extracts hydrogen (H2) from (bio )methanol (CH3OH). "If the trial run is successful, Dettelbach could go down in mobile communications history," says Walter Goldenits, Chief Technology Officer at Telekom Deutschland. "When it comes to rural locations, power connections are often a problem, as well as a cost driver. In the future, mobile base stations that are powered by fuel cells could help to eliminate white spots in remote locations even faster and better."
The project in Dettelbach is contributing to Deutsche Telekom's climate targets: the company intends to reduce its CO2 emissions by 90 percent by 2030. To achieve this, the company will source all of its electricity worldwide from renewable sources starting in 2021.