(Pocket-lint) – Vodafone has activated its very first self-powered phone mast in the village of Eglwyswrw in Sir Benfro/Pembrokeshire, Wales. It’s the first time a cellular tower like this has been powered on the UK, and is seen as a way in which the company can better reach low coverage, rural areas.
This latest 4G mast incorporates a wind turbine built by Crossflow Energy as well as solar panels and an on-site battery for storing unused power for darker/stiller days.
Vodafone’s aim is that this mast can run all year round with only its wind, solar and battery keeping it active.
The company says the wind turbines can generate power even with little wind and – combined with the solar and battery – means that masts can be built without the need dig trenches for laying electricity cables.
This means the masts can be installed and erected quicker than traditional masts, and are generally better for the environment. They’re also quieter and safer for wildlife than traditional turbines.
It’s worth noting that this particular mast is an already active mast – which is in fact connected to the grid – and is being retrofitted with the self-powering technology.
Vodafone says this mast – situated at Home Farm in Eglwyswrw – will be active for two years and Vodafone will use this 24 month trial period to gather how effective it is.
The data gathered should help Vodafone further improve and optimise the technology and determine where the best sites are for this kind of mast for further rollout.
Of course, the aim is that this mast will predominantly use the green energy that it’s been equipped with. It will then use power from the grid only when necessary, so that those in the Eglwyswrw community aren’t left without signal.
If the trial works, Vodafone will build more, similar masts in coverage dead-zones, bringing faster, stronger 4G connectivity to areas that currently don’t have it.
Although, again, future remote sites without a connection to the national grid will need another power source as backup for the times the wind, solar and battery combination can’t keep it running.
It’s a promising move from Vodafone and one that could signal greener, more environmentally friendly masts in the future and – as importantly – brings mobile signal to places that need it.
Writing by Cam Bunton.