Ericsson Unveils Wind-Powered Cell Tower

Telecommunications provider Ericsson (s ERIC) is putting some wind power into its network with a new radio communications tower unveiled today. The Swedish telecom partnered with turbine maker Vertical Wind AB and Uppsala University in Sweden to incorporate a vertical-axis wind turbine into the tower that houses radio base stations and antennas. The tower is now undergoing trials to see if the design will enable low-cost mobile communications to spread throughout remote regions with minimal environmental impact.

The rig is a conceptual riff on Ericsson’s energy-lean Tower Tube design. Ericsson has greatly reduced the station’s power demand, eliminating the need for feeders and cooling systems and slashing energy consumption up to 40 percent, the company says.

It’s not clear how much of the tower’s energy needs will be fulfilled by the turbine but it will likely need to be grid-connected to ensure a stable signal, because of wind’s intermittent nature, although it could use an energy storage system in far-flung locals. Still, the idea of greening our communications networks with windmills makes a lot sense. If we’re putting up these tall towers anyway, why not slap a turbine on them? We just hope it works as well as it sounds.

The turbine has five-meter long blades and uses a direct drive system, as opposed to a complicated gear box. Since direct drive turbines have fewer moving parts, they can be cheaper, quieter and easier to maintain. Northern Power, an American wind turbine maker, just raised $37 million to scale up its direct drive turbine development.

This project is part of Ericsson’s ongoing Communications Expander campaign, under which the company is boosting efficiency and using solar and wind energy when possible to power its network. Aside from the environmental benefits, Ericsson says this will cut operation costs and make telecommunications available to more people in more parts of the world.

Images courtesy of Ericsson.