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Green telco towers meet electricity demands in rural Bangladesh

  • Published at 02:46 pm October 13th, 2017
Green telco towers meet electricity demands in rural Bangladesh
In Nijhum Dwip, a southern island at the end of mainland Bangladesh, the national electricity grid is yet to extend its reach. With it being a hard-to-reach area, the chance of finding grid electricity there is still considered a far-fetched reality. For Mohammad Mamun, a resident of Nijhum Dwip, there is no option but to go for solar power panels to light up his house. The problem is, the prolonged rainy season and the unpredictable coastal weather, now made even more temperamental by climate change as many experts believe, have made this basic electricity production from the small solar home system (SHS) an uncertainty. Now, the scenario has changed. Mamun’s children can study after the dusk and his wife doesn’t have to rely on the murky candle light to do the household chores. This is thanks to edotco - a tower management company who has taken an initiative titled ‘Tower to Power’ to distribute the excess electricity that it produces through its large solar panel installed in the tower site to the community for free. Naim Mohammad, an engineer at edotco who is posted in that site, said that the tower produces six kilowatt of electricity and it needs about three kilowatt to run the tower site. The rest is given to the local mosque, madrasa and 28 households for free. “We have large solar panels installed in the tower site which can catch sunlight in a better and efficient manner than the small SHS installed in most of the households here. We distribute the excess electricity for free to the nearby households, as well as the mosque and madrasa,” he said.

The green towers open up new possibilities

Renewable energy - once considered an impractical solution for powering vital telecommunications infrastructure - may now warrant a second look, as leading integrated tower infrastructure operators like edotco have gained considerable success in bringing electricity to rural Bangladesh through its towers. Edotco Bangladesh has been at the forefront of the country’s tower infrastructure landscape since 2013, successfully utilising renewable energy and innovative green technology in many of its tower sites, and reducing the carbon footprint of its operations by 20 percent in the process.
Through edotco’s “Tower to Power” project in Bangladesh, as of August 2017, more than 160 homes, 13 mosques and two schools have been able to improve their lives with the surplus electricity received since 2016
The company operates about 9,000 mobile towers in Bangladesh, of which about 500 run on solar and wind energy. Edotco’s wind turbines now produce more than 10 kilowatts of energy in normal conditions and can function without any glitches, even during adverse weather conditions. Edotco’s green telco tower site generates about four kilowatts of electric energy on average from an installed solar power facility, thus packing enough power to generate excess electricity that the community can also benefit from. Through edotco’s “Tower to Power” project in Bangladesh, as of August 2017, more than 160 homes, 13 mosques and two schools have been able to improve their lives with the surplus electricity received since 2016. The “Tower to Power” project initiative falls under edotco’s corporate social responsibility and sustainability focus, which is targeted at creating positive social and economic impacts in the local communities the company operates in. Other than the island of Nijhum Dwip, edotco has also been supplying electricity to rural communities in Shibpur, Nazirpur and Kuakata. The company has also been able to supply clean and safe drinking water to villagers in Nilphamari through its solar-powered water-pumps under its “Tower to Power” project.

A vision well implemented

In 2011, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) made provisions for alternative and renewable energy to be utilised in at least five percent of the country’s 35,000 telecom tower sites. BTRC chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmud is optimistic that Bangladesh’s renewable energy use at tower sites will increase more than five percent. “Tower operators have long been studying the feasibility and availability of renewable energy for their sites. If the infrastructure is in place, there is no reason why more sites are not using renewable energy,” said the BTRC chairman. Applauding edotco’s green initiatives, Abu Naser Khan, founder of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), a community-based environmental group, said, “If an operator implements renewable energy and sees significant benefit from it, it may encourage other operators to also join in. This will increase the use of cleaner alternative energy sources and will ease the fuel shortage in our country as well as reduce carbon emissions.” Rahul Chaudhary, edotco’s managing director for Bangladesh, said, “edotco is able to bring innovative and green solutions and initiatives such as the Tower to Power project to Bangladesh’s rural and remote communities, thereby enhancing the quality of the residents’ lives and providing network coverage amid the country’s power shortage. Such initiatives also help us extend our business footprint to other parts of Bangladesh.”
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