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Operators ramp up spending on solar cell sites

Solar power shines as power supply for remote cell sites

Operators ramp up spending on solar cell sites
Solar power is gaining pace as a means to power cell sites.

Operator spending on photovoltaic cell sites in the Arab World is set to reach almost $144 million between 2012 and 2015, outstripping the value of regular generator sets for the first time, according to a new report from Jordan-based Arab Advisors Group.

Mobile operators in the Arab World are set to invest a total of about $251.5 million in power generation systems from 2012 to 2015. Of this, $144 million will be spent on PV systems, compared to $107.6 million on regular generator sets.

Arab Advisors said that the operators it surveyed, which accounted for about 25% of the region's mobile operators, plan to deploy 590 hybrid power and renewable energy systems to power network infrastructure in 2012 and 2013.

With cellular population coverage in the Arab World well over 90% of population throughout the region, operators are filling in coverage of remote areas and isolated communities, resulting in the need for on-site power generation systems to power base stations in off-grid areas.

Arab cellular operators are devoting increasing attention to the social and environmental sustainability of their network operations, although financial considerations still dominate decision-making.

The use of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at off-grid sites is growing rapidly. The thirteen operators participating in the survey reported a total of 378 hybrid and green power systems installed as of June 30, 2011. Nearly three quarters of the systems incorporated solar (PV) power.

"The Middle East is best known for its oil, but the region has a tremendous natural resource in the form of solar energy. Cellular operators in the region are waking up to this potential and are in the midst of a large scale-up of photovoltaic system deployments," said Rebecca Mayer, senior consultant at Arab Advisors Group. "Photovoltaic systems are, by far, the most widely accepted renewable energy technology by Arab cellular operators, compared to small wind turbines, fuel cells, or alternative fuels."

Arab Advisors Group conducted a survey of regional cellular operators about their power generation systems between July and November 2011. Responses were received from operators representing networks in the following countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Survey respondents represent 13 of 52 regional operators (25%) and 87 million cellular subscribers, or about 28% of subscribers in the Arab World in 2010.

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