For telecom service providers occasional, prolonged power outages can be devastating. Dantherm backup power solutions based on Ballard’s proprietary fuel cell technology offer the Power to Change network reliability by delivering tangible durability, environmental and economic improvements over incumbent technology.
Recent events, such as the Northeast Blackout of 2003 and the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005, have increased focus on availability and reliability of telecommunications services. A key differentiator of telecom systems, whether wireless or wireline, is the ability to provide continuous, reliable service to customers at all times, and in particular during extended power outages. The choice of backup power technology has a direct impact on the availability of services to the end-user and contributes significantly to a telecommunication company’s market success.
Traditional battery solutions are challenged to meet extended-duration backup power needs. Limitations of battery technology include:
- Unpredictability of life expectancy, even in moderately harsh climates (hot or cold),
- Battery health status is difficult to predict and monitor,
- When handled improperly, battery overheating can occur, sometimes resulting in explosion. Environmental and financial consequences of even a single incident could be severe,
- Batteries are bulky and heavy in large-scale backup installations, making them potentially expensive to site.
Diesel generators are sometimes used to extend backup times, but are often not suitable for urban locations, where the associated noise, fuel storage and pollution are unwelcome. In some jurisdictions, such as the state of California, the use of diesel generators for backup power purposes is subject to strict air quality regulations.
Fuel cell backup power solutions offer numerous compelling advantages over conventional battery and diesel generators in emergency backup power applications.
A. Improved Durability and Reliability
Fuel cell solutions are reliable with minimal servicing requirements, and durability is minimally compromised by operation at extreme temperatures.
Backup power runtime is directly proportional to the amount of fuel available for a fuel cell system, so the required backup time can be provisioned by ensuring adequate on-site fuel storage. The fuel cell system itself occupies the same amount of rack space whether eight, twelve, or seventy-two hours of backup time is required - again, limited only by on-site fuel storage capacity.
C. Lifecycle Cost Savings
Fuel cell systems offer lifecycle cost savings for backup power distributed at telecom nodes, particularly at sites requiring relatively low power (<10-15kW) over a long duration (>8 hours). Fuel cell-based backup power systems are designed to operate for approximately ten years, while battery strings may need total replacement every three to five years. Additionally, fuel cell solutions require only minimal annual maintenance compared to quarterly site visits to service diesel generators.
D. Environmental Benefits
Zero-emissions combined with quiet operation make fuel cells highly suitable for indoor, outdoor, urban or rural applications. And, because they can be re-manufactured at the end of their useful lives, they generate low disposal and recycling costs in comparison to valve regulated lead acid batteries.
EMERGENCY BACKUP POWER
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a lack of adequate backup power for communications facilities was a critical problem that caused network interruptions and hampered recovery efforts. In the aftermath, an independent panel (Katrina Panel) was called upon to review the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the telecommunications and media infrastructure. In June 2006, the Katrina Panel made recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding ways to improve disaster preparedness, network reliability and communications among first responders.
The recommendations in this report elevated the importance of backup power, encouraging service providers to implement flexible business continuity plans that address their long duration backup power needs and enhance network reliability and resiliency. Meeting these long backup duration requirements with traditional power sources can be costly, as telecom companies are expected to provide backup power to hundreds of thousands of wireless cell sites. At many sites, fuel cell systems are the ideal solution, providing reliable, clean and efficient backup power.
FUEL CELL PRODUCTS
Dantherm Power offers complete customized backup power solutions designed for telecom and IT networks providing uninterruptible power supply as our units deliver power seamlessly in the event of a grid outage.
Dantherm systems incorporate Ballard fuel cell products, enabling extremely compact and costeffective backup power solutions. Ballard’s FCgen™- 1020ACS fuel cell product is commercially available today and features dynamic response, robust and reliable operation, durable packaging and a simplified air-cooled design. As well, Ballard has a new liquid-cooled reformate-capable fuel cell product currently in development, to be available in sizes ranging from the sub-kilowatt level to 7 kilowatts. The FCgen™-1300, to be commercially available in 2010, is a liquid-cooled fuel cell product capable of operating with reformed natural gas, which will ensure flexible siting and simplified support.
Fuel cell systems will provide power as long as hydrogen fuel is supplied. Available in a variety of forms, hydrogen fuel storage is scalable to meet site and provider specific needs. Typically, at cellular sites, the fuel cell system consumes fuel from standard hydrogen gas “T cylinders.” In areas where availability or delivery of hydrogen is limited, on-site generation through electrolysis or reformation provides a viable alternative solution for end-users. On-site fuel reforming technology is compact and efficient, enabling the flexibility to use a wide range of fuels such as methanol, ethanol or hydrocarbon fuels such as natural gas, propane and diesel to produce hydrogen. These fuels are readily available in most parts of the world, provide extended runtimes for critical backup power applications and remove any issues surrounding hydrogen siting or delivery.