Vodafone to roll out self-sufficient masts powered entirely by renewable energy

Masts will be built in remote locations in the UK following a trial later this year

The top of a new bird-friendly wind turbine developed by Crossflow

Vodafone is set to install mobile phone masts powered only by renewable energy once trials of the technology conclude later this year.

Dubbed Eco-masts, they will be deployed in remote locations in the UK away from any connection to the electricity grid.

The masts should also improve rural connectivity by allowing new sites to be built in more remote areas, supporting industry commitments to cover 95% of the UK landmass by 2025.

Vodafone has been working alongside Crossflow Energy on the development of the latter firm’s wind turbine technology, combined with solar and battery technologies, to create a self-powered mobile network tower. Vodafone’s network partner, Cornerstone, will run a proof-of-concept mast with Crossflow’s Turbine technology on rural mobile sites.

As well as reducing Vodafone’s energy consumption, self-powered sites remove the need to connect to the electricity grid. Vodafone said this overcomes what can be an “insurmountable civil engineering challenge” when building new sites in the most rural parts of the UK.

Vodafone said that in addition to reducing the environmental impact of the site by using renewable energy, and removing the need for diesel generators for back-up power, the bird-friendly turbine makes the Eco-Tower viable for the most sensitive of sites, including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Andrea Dona, chief network officer at Vodafone UK, said that improving rural connectivity comes with some significant challenges.

“Connecting masts to the energy grid can be a major barrier to delivering this objective, so making these sites self-sufficient is a huge step forward for us and for the mobile industry,” he said. “Our approach to managing our network as responsibly as possible is very simple: we put sustainability at the heart of every decision. There is no silver bullet to reducing energy consumption, but each of these steps forward takes us closer to achieving net zero for its UK operations by 2027.”

Martin Barnes, chief executive officer at Crossflow Energy, added that the trial was an opportunity to show how its self-powered Eco-Tower solves the problem of harnessing ‘small wind’ to offer “not just that all important carbon reduction but also significant commercial benefits”.

“In the case of Vodafone, it will help to accelerate the expansion of rural connectivity, transform energy consumption patterns and deliver significant economic and carbon savings,” said Barnes.

“Our turbine technology has equally strong applications for so many other industries, but to have such a high-profile player as Vodafone deploying our Eco-Tower is a major endorsement for us and our technology."

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